Madonna to celebrate Jewish New Year at Rachel’s Tomb

September 15, 2004

* Demi Moore, Donna Karan, Donald Trump's wife Marla, among those scheduled to join Madonna in Israel for Rosh Hashana

 

CONTENTS

1. A Moslem flag over London
2. Promoting Israeli tourism, co-exsistence
3. No longer a "material girl"
4. "Madonna arrives in Israel Wednesday" (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 15, 2004)
5. "Orthodox Jews offended by Madonna's Kabbalah ties" (ABC Australia Broadcasting (Transcript), Sept. 12, 2004)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

MADONNA TO SPEND TWELVE DAYS IN ISRAEL

Pop star Madonna is due to arrive in Israel today or tomorrow for a 12-day visit to coincide with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana), which begins this evening. Tomorrow she is scheduled to visit Rachel's Tomb on the Bethlehem-Jerusalem road, one of Judaism's holiest sites.

Jewish worshippers there have been frequent targets of Palestinian terror attacks and sniper shootings in recent years, some of them carried out by Yasser Arafat's security forces on his direct orders. Hundreds of Kabbalah enthusiasts are expected to join Madonna at Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch.

A left-wing Israeli group will hold a vigil opposing her presence in "occupied territory."

Madonna's PR agency has requested that journalists covering events with Madonna comply with the Jewish orthodox restrictions of the High Holy Days by wearing white and not bringing writing utensils or cameras to the press conference. Madonna also asked Jews not to violate the orthodox restrictions against photography, and specifically requested newspapers use non-Jewish photographers during the Jewish New Year.

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF "MR. BIG"

Catholic-born Madonna last visited in Israel in 1993 when she gave a concert. Madonna, who now also uses the Jewish name Esther, has been a student at the Los Angeles Kabbalah Center for six years. She now refrains from eating some non-kosher foods, and won't perform on Friday nights.

Others due to attend the Israeli Kabbalah events with Madonna include Marla Trump, wife of business tycoon Donald Trump, film star Demi Moore, and fashion designer Donna Karan. They will be staying at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, and then at hotels in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee in northeastern Israel.

The London Kabbalah center was set up with a £3.65 million donation from Madonna. Other celebrity followers of Kabbalah, but who are not attending the celebrations in Israel with Madonna, include Britney Spears, David Beckham and Elizabeth Taylor.

The Israeli Tourism Minister, Gidon Ezra, will present Madonna with an oil lamp and coin from the Byzantine Period on Sunday, September 19th

Madonna's visit to Israel follows those of several other celebrities in recent months, including Whitney Houston, Christopher Reeve, and Chris Noth, who played "Mr Big" in "Sex and the City". (By contrast many left-wing American Jewish celebrities have shied away from visiting the Jewish state in recent years.)

 

A MOSLEM FLAG OVER LONDON

[This additional note a follow-up to the relevant items in the dispatches on this list: Finally, CNN to show the true horror of terror against Israelis (September 8, 2004) and London Convention Will Celebrate 9/11 (and other items) (September 7, 2004)]

At midnight on September 10, Islamic extremists were forced to call off a London conference commemorating the third anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on America when the owners of the venue cancelled the booking after consulting police. The meeting was due to be held by the al-Muhajiroun group at Friends House, a hall in Euston Road, central London.

On the morning of September 11, Anjem Choudary, a spokesman for the group, told a press conference, that Muslims would not be intimidated by the banning and a Muslim flag would one day fly over Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister.

A spokesman for the Quaker-run Friends House said the hall had been booked under the name of the "Birmingham Youth Forum," and Friends House only discovered the real identity of the meeting's organizers at the last minute.

Separately, Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street firm that lost 658 employees in the attacks, announced on Friday that it will sue the Saudi government for their role in facilitating the attacks.

 

I attach two articles, with summaries first about Madonna’s visit, for those who don't have time to read them in full.

SUMMARIES

PROMOTING ISRAELI TOURISM, CO-EXISTENCE

"Madonna arrives in Israel Wednesday" (The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 15, 2004)

Madonna is scheduled to arrive in Israel today in time to celebrate Rosh Hashana. Madonna, who is participating in the international congress of the Kabbalah Center, will be accompanied by members of her family, and will be surrounded by some 2,000 participants from 22 countries. The Kabbalah Center has booked approximately 1,200 hotel rooms in Tel Aviv and Tiberias for the event.

... Heading the American delegation is the center's Rabbi Phillip Berg, who has served as Madonna's spiritual guru during her well-publicized Kabbala studies.

The Web site Israel 21c is reporting that Madonna will be the main attraction at an event called Spirituality for Kids, set to take place next Sunday. The 45-year-old singer, along with husband Guy Ritchie and other high-profile American celebrities, will join Israeli political leaders including Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom as part of a Kabbala learning retreat in Tel Aviv over the High Holy Days, the Kabbalah Center announced.

"We need to honor these heroic and courageous children. A gathering of this magnitude can have the power to diminish the volatile gap between Israeli and Arab communities to help the people recognize that love is stronger than hate and that peace is the focus for the future," said Berg in a press release.

The event will include speeches from Madonna, Elies Jabol – a Christian Arab who is the head of House and Hope and peace agreement leader in the Middle East – Sufi Sheikh Manasra, and Druse Sheikh Abulrocan...

 

NO LONGER A "MATERIAL GIRL"?

"Orthodox Jews offended by Madonna's Kabbalah ties" (ABC Australia Broadcasting (Transcript), September 12, 2004)

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The singer Madonna is due in Israel later this week, not as part of her performance tour, but to join thousands of practitioners of the Orthodox Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah…. But as Middle East Correspondent Jane Hutcheon reports, many Orthodox Jewish rabbis are offended by Madonna's ties to the faith.

[Sound of Madonna's "Like a Virgin"] ... JANE HUTCHEON: There isn't actually anything new age about Kabbalah. Translated from Hebrew, it means "reception" and is thousands of years old. Practitioners study a text called the Zohar, which delves into the innermost soul of a Jew.

In a sign of affection for the faith, Madonna adopted a Hebrew name – Esther – but she was born a Catholic, and many Orthodox Jews believe a Goy – or non-Jew – has no place studying Kabbalah.

Rabbi Yzchak Bazri: "It's forbidden for a Goy to learn Kabbalah. He has to learn and known the Jewish bible first. Kabbalah is the highest form of Judaism, and those who practice it need to be extremely spiritual, modest and wise, surrounding themselves with holiness and purity.

[Sound of Madonna's "Material Girl"] In the eyes of Rabbi Bazri, whose father was one of Jerusalem's most renowned Kabbalists, the material girl can't be in the club. But the real Kabbalah appears to have little to do with the new age phenomenon packaged and sold, often at a hefty price, by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre...


FULL ARTICLES

MADONNA ARRIVES IN ISRAEL

Madonna arrives in Israel Wednesday
By Greer Fay Cashman
The Jerusalem Post
September 15, 2004

After all the media hype and the on-again, off-again announcements, megastar singer Madonna is finally scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday, just in time to celebrate Rosh Hashana.

If all goes according to plan, Madonna, who is participating in the international congress of the Kabbalah Center, will be accompanied by members of her family, and will be surrounded by some 2,000 participants from 22 countries.

The Kabbalah Center has booked approximately 1,200 hotel rooms in Tel Aviv and Tiberias for the event.

On Wednesday, Madonna is due to visit Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, where a left-wing women's group will hold a vigil opposing her presence in "occupied territory."

Hundreds of Kabbala enthusiasts are expected to join Madonna at Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch.

Madonna's PR agency, Arad Communications, has requested that journalists covering events with Madonna wear white and not bring writing utensils or cameras to the press conference.

Madonna also asked Jews not to violate the High Holy Days to see her, and she specifically requested non-Jewish photographers.

Heading the American delegation is the center's Rabbi Phillip Berg, who has served as Madonna's spiritual guru during her well-publicized Kabbala studies.

The Web site Israel 21c is reporting that Madonna will be the main attraction at an event called Spirituality for Kids, set to take place next Sunday. The 45-year-old singer, along with husband Guy Ritchie and other high-profile American celebrities, will join Israeli political leaders including Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom as part of a Kabbala learning retreat in Tel Aviv over the High Holy Days, the Kabbalah Center announced.

"We need to honor these heroic and courageous children. A gathering of this magnitude can have the power to diminish the volatile gap between Israeli and Arab communities to help the people recognize that love is stronger than hate and that peace is the focus for the future," said Berg in a press release.

The event will include speeches from Madonna, Elies Jabol – a Christian Arab who is the head of House and Hope and peace agreement leader in the Middle East – Sufi Sheikh Manasra, and Druse Sheikh Abulrocan.

Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra, who is also the interim minister for internal security, plans to meet the diva in the former capacity, but also has a good excuse to meet her in the latter, given that the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, where she is booked to stay in the 24th-floor presidential suite, will be saturated with security personnel.

In an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, Ezra said that it would not hurt if the singer, who is to spend five days in Israel, were to be photographed with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but did not know whether the schedules of the prime minister and the material girl would permit it.

The key beneficiaries in the hotel industry will be the David Intercontinental and Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv and the Galei Kinneret and Hof Gai in Tiberias. Most of the participants in the congress will be in Israel for 12 days.

Israelis who wants to swell the ranks of the congress participants can attend two days of services and eat 10 meals at the David Intercontinental for NIS 4,000. Accommodation is not included.

Catholic-born Madonna was last in Israel in 1993 for a concert appearance. She came to Jerusalem, spent less than an hour in her luxury suite at the King David Hotel, and immediately headed for Tel Aviv.

The Tel Aviv branch of the Kabbalah Center has put Hebrew translations of her books on prominent display. Madonna, who reportedly now also answers to the Jewish name Esther, refrains from eating some nonkosher foods, won't perform on Friday night, and has been a student at the Los Angeles Kabbalah Center for six years.

Other American celebrities rumored to be coming for the congress include Marla Trump, wife of business tycoon Donald Trump, actress Demi Moore, and fashion designer Donna Karan.

In 2002, Karen Berg founded Spirituality for Kids, which funds, researches, and supports a program tailored to promoting spirituality among children through combining Kabbala wisdom with art, science, music, history, and culture. In Israel, the program caters to Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druse children.

Ahinoam Nini has agreed to do a benefit concert on Sunday night for Spirituality for Kids. Her agent, Asher Bitansky, said that as far as he was aware Madonna would not be singing with her, "but if she wants to join her, we won't object."

 

ORTHODOX JEWS OFFENDED BY MADONNA'S KABBALAH TIES

Orthodox Jews offended by Madonna's Kabbalah ties
Correspondents Report
Reporter: Jane Hutcheon
ABC Australia Broadcasting (Transcript)
September 12 , 2004

www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2004/s1197075.htm

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The singer Madonna is due in Israel later this week, not as part of her performance tour, but to join thousands of practitioners of the Orthodox Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah.

The gathering has been organised by a Los Angeles based centre popularised by Rabbi Philip Berg.

Kabbalah has attracted a string of high profile stars – many of whom wear a signature piece of red string around their wrist.

But as Middle East Correspondent Jane Hutcheon reports, many Orthodox Jewish rabbis are offended by Madonna's ties to the faith.

(sound of Madonna's "Like a Virgin")

JANE HUTCHEON: Since the chameleon-like performer burst on to the world stage in the '80s, she's published a book about sex, been photographed nude and sworn on TV talk shows.

Earlier this year, she kissed pop idol Britney Spears on the mouth in front of millions of viewers at an awards night.

But if you ask artist David Friedman, who's practiced Kabbalah for 25 years, Madonna's past behaviour doesn't stop her from observing this now-fashionable Jewish faith.

DAVID FRIEDMAN: I'm very open-minded. And I think somebody who lives in Hollywood, who's in a very… she was the material girl, to discover that there is also a spiritual realm, the body is the entirety of the human being, I think that's encouraging.

JANE HUTCHEON: There isn't actually anything new age about Kabbalah. Translated from Hebrew, it means "reception" and is thousands of years old. Practitioners study a text called the Zohar, which delves into the innermost soul of a Jew.

In a sign of affection for the faith, Madonna adopted a Hebrew name – Esther – but she was born a Catholic, and many Orthodox Jews believe a Goy – or non-Jew – has no place studying Kabbalah.

RABBI YZCHAK BAZRI:

(Sound of Yzchak Bazri speaking)

"It's forbidden for a Goy to learn Kabbalah. He has to learn and known the Jewish bible first. Kabbalah is the highest form of Judaism, and those who practice it need to be extremely spiritual, modest and wise, surrounding themselves with holiness and purity.

(sound of Madonna's "Material Girl")

In the eyes of Rabbi Bazri, whose father was one of Jerusalem's most renowned Kabbalists, the material girl can't be in the club. But the real Kabbalah appears to have little to do with the new age phenomenon packaged and sold, often at a hefty price, by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre.

A piece of red string, tied around the wrist to get rid of the evil eye retails for nearly $50, and other inspirational products command similarly exorbitant price tags. But Kabbalist and artist David Friedman says the spirit of Kabbalah is there for everyone, including Esther, AKA Madonna.

DAVID FRIEDMAN: If you believe in something, even if it's a sugar pill, but if you believe it's something that's going to cure your illness, the power of faith is also something not to take lightly.

JANE HUTCHEON: Fresh from her latest tour, entitled "Reinvention", Madonna's presence in Israel is likely to cause more than a stir. Rabbi Bazri has some advice for her.

(sound of Yzchak Bazri speaking)

"I don't think her school knows about Kabbalah. But if she comes here she'll find pure, honest people. They will not accept her with her clothes, she must come with different ones."

The mother of two is said to be funding Kabbalah schools in New York and London, and though her low-key visit is likely to raise a few eyebrows, perhaps the purists realise that new age fads are just part of life.

(sound of Madonna's "American Life")

This is a modestly-dressed Jane Hutcheon in Jerusalem, for Correspondents Report.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The latest enthusiasm of the sometimes not-so-modestly dressed Madonna.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.