Papa don't preach, but Madonna sure does. The Ethereal Girl capped her spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land last week with a call for world peace. ''Esther'' and her husband, Guy Ritchie, were there with 2,800 fellow Kabbalah devotees who came to study, pray, and take strength from the extra-powerful energy they say emanates from the region during the Jewish New Year.
''We want to create peace in the world. We want to put an end to chaos and suffering. But most of all, we want to put an end to hatred for no reason,'' Madonna told an audience at a benefit for a children's foundation run by L.A.'s Kabbalah Centre.
Four years of intense fighting with the Palestinians has left the usually cynical Israelis focused less on criticizing Madonna's marketing-heavy, trendy version of Kabbalah (red string, anyone?) and more on celebrating her presence in a country starved for visitors. (Recent high-profile tourists: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Alexander, and Chris Noth.)
Israeli newspapers ran almost daily front-page coverage of Madonna's five-day visit, trumpeting her comments about feeling safe in Israel. ''I realize now that it is no more dangerous to be here than it is to be in New York,'' said the singer, who last spring canceled plans for a concert tour in Israel, citing terrorism fears.
She joked that the most dangerous thing she encountered was ''a few very naughty paparazzi.'' Two photographers reportedly were injured after allegedly being assaulted by her bodyguards in front of her luxury hotel along the Tel Aviv beach. Yep, Madonna sure is spreading peace wherever she goes.