Madonna on her “Confessions” tour, mock crucified, wearing a crown of thorns
JERUSALEM: Visiting pop idol Madonna toasted the Jewish new year with Israeli President Shimon Peres and declared herself an “ambassador for Judaism,” local newspapers reported Sunday.
The singer, who is not Jewish, met Peres at his official Jerusalem residence on Saturday evening, and the two exchanged gifts, with Madonna receiving a lavishly-bound copy of the Old Testament.
She presented Peres a volume of “The Book of Splendor,” the guiding text of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, inscribed, “To Shimon Peres, the man I admire and love, Madonna,” the Yediot Ahronot daily said.
A Peres aide confirmed the meeting but had no details.
Madonna arrived in Israel Wednesday night, the eve of the new year, with her film director husband, Guy Ritchie, to attend a Kabbalah conference.
Other celebrities who flew in for the event included movie star Demi Moore and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, ex-talk show host Rosie O’Donnell and fashion designer Donna Karan.
“You don’t know how popular the Book of Splendor is among Hollywood actors,” Yediot quoted Madonna as telling Peres. “Everyone I meet talks to me only about that. I am an ambassador for Judaism.”
The Haaretz daily quoted Kutcher as telling a group of Israeli businessmen and entertainers on Saturday that Kabbalah had answered fundamental questions in his life and made him a better actor.
Madonna’s interest in Kabbalah in recent years has been criticized by Orthodox Jews, who say it is an abomination.
Rabbis who specialize in Kabbalah have criticized the interest by non-Jewish celebrities in the subject. Jewish tradition holds that Kabbalah is so powerful and complicated that only bonafide students may begin to approach it and then only after age 40. Among the elements of Kabbalah are mystical revelations drawn from holy books by recombination of letters and other signs.
Rabbis were particularly incensed by Madonna’s song, “Isaac,” about the revered 16th-century Kabbalist rabbi Yitzhak Luria, which featured on her 2005 album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor.”
Madonna, who was raised a Roman Catholic, has taken the Hebrew name Esther, and has been seen wearing a red thread on her wrist in a Jewish tradition to ward off the evil eye. During her visit she plans to visit sites sacred to Kabbalists. It was not known how long she intends to stay.
Madonna paid her first visit to Israel three years ago, on another Kabbalah-centered trip.
“I can’t believe that I’m celebrating the new year with you in Israel,” Maariv newspaper quoted her as telling Peres on Saturday. “It’s a dream come true.”