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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Madonna due to join Israel trip
Madonna is expected to visit the West Bank town of Bethlehem
Madonna is due to celebrate the Jewish New Year in Israel with 2,000 fellow students of Kabbalah, prompting an extensive police operation.

The singer will visit the graves of rabbinical sages in northern Israel on next week's trip, organised by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre.

Police said 2,000 officers are being deployed after rumours that religious extremists could disrupt the visit.

Kabbalah is a type of Jewish mysticism taught regardless of religion.

Celebrity interest

It has attracted several celebrities in recent years, including actress Demi Moore, singer Britney Spears and fashion designer Donna Karan.

But some ultra-Orthodox rabbis frown upon the celebrity interest in Kabbalah.

Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri, a leading Kabbalist and revered rabbinical sage, told Israeli newspaper Maariv that non-Jews, and women in general, are banned from studying Jewish mysticism.

The Kabbalah Centre group is expected to arrive in Israel as the Jewish New Year begins on Wednesday, and to visit Rachel's Tomb, the traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Madonna planned to include Israel in her ongoing world tour
Osnat Youdkevitch, the director of Tel Aviv's Kabbalah Centre, told the Haaretz newspaper that the group would also be expected to do "kaparos".

This is a Jewish custom 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. It is said to symbolise getting rid of the year's sins.

In May Madonna cancelled plans to visit Israel as part of her ongoing world tour.

She said she had wanted to concentrate on her European dates, but The Sun newspaper reported that the Israel dates were cancelled due to safety fears.


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