Local media in Israel reported Sunday that Madonna toasted the Jewish New Year with Israeli President Shimon Peres and declared herself an "ambassador for Judaism." The singer, raised a Roman Catholic, arrived September 12 in Israel to attend a conference on Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.
The 49-year-old performer met Peres on September 15 at his official Jerusalem residence. The two exchanged gifts, with Madonna receiving a lavishly bound copy of the Jewish Bible. She gave Peres a volume of "The Book of Splendor," the guiding text of Kabbalah.
The Yediot Ahronot daily reported that the book bore the inscription "To Shimon Peres, the man I admire and love, Madonna." A Peres aide confirmed the meeting but had no details.
Madonna, who has taken the Hebrew name Esther, had been seen wearing a red thread on her wrist in a Jewish tradition to ward off the evil eye.
Other celebrities who flew in for the Kabbalah conference included actress Demi Moore and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher; Rosie O'Donnell; and fashion designer Donna Karan. Accompanying Madonna was her husband, film director Guy Ritchie.
Orthodox teachers of Kabbalah have expressed unhappiness with celebrities' interest in the subject. Jewish tradition holds that Kabbalah is so powerful and complex that only bona fide students over age 40 may begin to approach it. Among its elements are mystical revelations drawn from holy books by recombination of letters and other signs.
Rabbis were particularly angered by Madonna's song "Isaac," about the 16th-Century Kabbalist rabbi Yitzhak Luria. It appeared on her 2005 album "Confessions On A Dance Floor."
During her visit, Madonna intends to visit sites sacred to Kabbalists. It was not known how long she intends to stay. Madonna first visited Israel three years ago on another Kabbalah-centered trip.