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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Madonna sees sacred wall at night
Madonna prays inside the tomb of Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag during a visit in the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem
Madonna prayed inside the tomb of Kabbalist Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag
Pop star Madonna has visited Judaism's sacred Western Wall in the dead of night, to avoid being mobbed by waiting photographers.

But the singer, who is on a spiritual quest to the Holy Land, only glimpsed the wall from her car and did not go down to the site during Sunday's visit.

Earlier, she made a midnight pilgrimage to a Jerusalem cemetery and held a ceremony at the grave of a Jewish sage.

The Kabbalah devotee began her five-day visit to Israel on Wednesday.

Celebrity following

The singer and her family have joined 2,000 fellow Kabbalists from the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre to celebrate the start of the Jewish New Year.

Kabbalah is a type of Jewish mysticism that has a growing celebrity following.

But Madonna, who recently adopted the Hebrew name Esther and wears a trademark Kabbalah red string on her wrist, has insisted she is serious about her belief in the Jewish mysticism.

Madonna is surrounded by bodyguards as she leaves the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag
Madonna and her husband were flanked by heavy security

She visited the grave of the Kabbalist sage Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag with her husband, film-maker Guy Ritchie, at the Kiryat Shaul cemetery, just after midnight on Sunday.

Polish-born Ashlag, who died in 1954, is the renowned author of the Sulam - the ladder - a commentary on the core Kabbalistic text, the Zohar.

Madonna spent more than an hour inside the stone mausoleum, placing candles on the tomb, praying and chanting.

The entourage, led by a rabbi, recited blessings over food and wine and drank from small plastic cups

After the visit, they moved on to the Western Wall - a part of Judaism's holiest site where the biblical temples once stood - but Madonna stayed in the car.

Religious values

At the site she received a mixed welcome from young worshippers, with some chanting: "She has no right to be here."

Some have opposed Madonna's visit and involvement in Kabbalah, charging that the raunchy, materialistic values the singer has promoted in the past are contrary to religious values.

But others welcomed her visit and said she had deprived herself of a spiritual experience by remaining in her vehicle.

Hadass Chen, who came to see the singer, said: "Why did she not come out of the car, we were waiting for her.

"You don't feel the vibe if you don't touch the wall."


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