Madonna brings the Middle East together – in anger
Diplomats have trying to unite both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict for years, but it only took Madonna one trip to Israel. Orthodox Jews and Palestinians are incensed by her five-day pilgrimage to practise her new-found faith, Kabbalah, an ancient form of Jewish mysticism.
The pop singer arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and planned to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the northern city of Safed, a centre of Kabbalah, and Rachel’s Tomb, the traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch, in Bethlehem.
Palestinians have accused her of ignoring their suffering, while Orthodox Jews have labelled her as religiously insensitive.
More than 1000 police officers serving in one of the most demanding security environments have been drafted in to protect Madonna, her family and more than 2000 participants from the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre for one of the biggest worldwide gatherings of Kabbalists.
Madonna has adopted the Hebrew name Esther, a biblical heroine who saved the Israelites, and reportedly refuses to perform on the Sabbath.
This is just the latest incarnation of the Catholic-born New Yorker – she has moved from “material girl” to sex goddess to yoga devotee and children’s author. But she insists her faith is serious and not a celebrity fad.
Her trip has been overshadowed by controversy, particularly over Rachel’s Tomb. The shrine has been a flashpoint during the Palestinian uprising. It is surrounded by huge slabs of concrete in a military compound, with watchtowers, razor wire and sniper positions nearby.
The Israeli Government has been building its security barrier close to the tomb, and Palestinians living in the area have accused the authorities of forcing them from their homes and of using the shrine to annex land under the guise of security.
Israeli peace activists turned out at Rachel’s Tomb on Wednesday to voice their concerns that Madonna’s visit to the shrine might be used to legitimise Israel’s occupation. They carried banners that read “Rachel’s Tomb, Madonna, is a new settlement” and “It’s the occupation, Madonna”.
Angela Godfrey Goldstein, an activist with an Israeli women’s peace group, said: “We hope she will not ignore the real victims, who are the Palestinians.”
source : smh.com.au