Madonna to visit Israeli rabbis' graves

Associated Press/September 10, 2004

Madonna will celebrate the Jewish New Year in Israel next week, and police said they will mobilise hundreds of officers for her planned visit to the graves of rabbinical sages in northern Israel.

Madonna is arriving along with 2,000 other students of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism, from 22 countries, said Tali Rosen, a spokeswoman for the Kabbalah Centre which organises the trip.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv reported that police were concerned religious extremists will try to disrupt the visit. Police spokesman Gil Kleiman could not confirm the report, but said 2,000 officers were being deployed.

The Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre, which teaches Jewish mysticism as a spiritual tool regardless of religion, has attracted several celebrities in recent years, including Madonna, actress Demi Moore and US designer Donna Karan.

Madonna is so taken with Kabbalah that she has used Hebrew letters and Jewish prayer accessories in video clips.

However, some ultra-Orthodox rabbis frown upon the celebrity interest in Kabbalah. Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri, a leading Kabbalist and revered rabbinical sage, said in a recent interview with Maariv that non-Jews, and women in general, are banned from studying Jewish mysticism.

"It is forbidden to teach a non-Jew Kabbalah, not even Talmud, not even simple Torah," Kadouri said. The rabbi, who is over 90, was referring to different Jewish holy books.

Osnat Youdkevitch, the director of the Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv, recently was quoted in the Haaretz newspaper as saying that the group would also visit Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Participants would also do "kaparos," Youdkevitch said, referring to a Jewish ritual in which a live chicken is swung over the head, slaughtered and given to the poor ahead of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

The rite is a sign of getting rid of the year's sins.

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