Madonna on Holy Land pilgrimage

Singer Madonna is travelling to Israel on Wednesday for a spiritual pilgrimage to mark the Jewish New Year.

The singer and her family will join 2,000 other students of Kaballah, a type of Jewish mysticism taught regardless of religion.

Kabbalah's profile has been growing in the past year, largely due to Madonna's involvement.

The trip could be controversial, as her itinerary includes a tomb in Bethlehem, on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land.

Thousands of police have been drafted in for the group, with details closely guarded because of security fears.

Jewish graves

The singer is expected to visit graves of Jewish sages in northern Israel, as well as the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial place of the biblical matriach, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

"These are energy vortexes," explained Rabbi Shaul Youdkevitch, head of the Kabbalah Center in Israel.

"It is known among Kabbalists, among people that study Kabbalah, that you can go there and recharge yourself with positive energy."

Pro-Palestinian activists are planning to protest if Madonna does visit the shrine in Bethlehem.


During her trip, she will also give a speech at an event bringing together Israeli and Palestinian children, supported by Kabbalist scholar Michael Berg.

Mr Berg said: "We need to honour 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 recognise that love is stronger than hate and peace is the focus for the future."

More usually known for her raunchy outfits, Madonna's interest in Kabbalah became public when she was spotted wearing its traditional red string bracelet.

Since then, a string of high-profile celebrities including Britney Spears and Courtney Love have been seen sporting the bracelet.

The number of centres dedicated to the faith is continually growing, particularly in the US, where there are centres in many major cities. There are also centres in London and Paris.

On Sunday, Israeli Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra is expected to give Madonna an ancient oil lamp and a coin from the Byzantine period.

"There's no question having stars in the country is a wonderful way to show the world the wonders of our nation," said Rami Levi of Israel's Tourism Ministry.