After midnight prayers at the grave of a rabbinical sage, songstress Madonna on yesterday called for world peace at a conference on Jewish mysticism, a highlight of her five-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Israel hopes the star – the biggest pop celebrity to visit in years – will revive tourism battered by four years of Mideast violence, and government officials were on hand at a Tel Aviv hotel to share the spotlight, the glory and the photographs.
Madonna, wearing a green-and-white patterned dress, said she was hesitant to come to Israel “after seeing so many news reports about terror attacks” and reading State Department travel warnings.
“I realize now that it is no more dangerous to be here than it is to be in New York,” she told the gathering.
At the gala event, Jewish and Arab performers and choirs sang to the gathering of more than 1,000 people. Israeli Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra presented Madonna with a small gift.
Tourism officials hope the singer’s well-publicised visit to Israel will calm fears that have kept many potential tourists away from the Holy Land, despite its religious and other attractions.
Ezra said Madonna’s visit was better than advertising for tourism.
“If she comes here and goes back and was happy with her visit, it means for a lot of people who were afraid to come here that they can come without any problem,” Ezra said.
Reading from notes, Madonna said the people she met during her five-day Holy Land trip “have one thing in common – we want to create peace in the world.”
“We want to put an end to chaos and suffering,” she said, “but most of all we want to put an end to hatred with no reason.”
The singer said she was not representing a religion. Rather, she said, “I’m here as a student of Kabbalah. A Kabbalist sees the world as a unified whole. A Kabbalist asks why.”
While many Israelis welcomed the singer and her entourage, others were uncomfortable with the mission.
Over the years, observant Jews have considered Kabbalah a powerful, even potentially dangerous, undertaking to be tackled only by the most qualified and learned men.
Now, many Orthodox Jews reject the adoption of Kabbalah by non-Jewish pop figures as a desecration of the holy.
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