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Originally published Friday, July 31, 2009 at 1:56 AM

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Madonna shares spiritual awakening in Israel paper

After a long career as a singer, dancer, new-age seeker and megacelebrity, Madonna added a new item to her resume Friday - Israeli newspaper correspondent.

Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM —

After a long career as a singer, dancer, new-age seeker and megacelebrity, Madonna added a new item to her resume Friday - Israeli newspaper correspondent.

An article in Friday's edition of Israel's biggest daily, Yediot Ahronot, bears the Material Girl's byline. It describes her spiritual awakening upon discovering Jewish mysticism, called Kabbalah, after which, she writes, "all the puzzle pieces started falling into place."

Madonna is bringing her Sticky & Sweet tour to Israel in September, which no doubt explains the timing of her journalism debut here. But she also has ties to Israel and Judaism through her involvement with the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Center, whose new-age version of Judaism's ancient mystic tradition has become popular among members of Hollywood's A-list.

The 50-year-old pop icon has taken the Hebrew name Esther and came to Israel on private pilgrimages in 2004 and 2007 along with other Kabbalah devotees.

In the article, Madonna, who was raised Roman Catholic, describes hearing about Kabbalah for the first time at a dinner party in Los Angeles while pregnant with her daughter Lourdes, who is now 12. She had recently completed a star turn in the movie Evita, she writes, but "still felt like something was missing in my life."

She went to her first class, taught by a teacher named Eitan, after years of practicing yoga and reading about Buddhism, Taoism and early Christianity.

"I heard what he had to say and I knew at this moment my life would never be the same," she writes in the article, which the paper published both in Hebrew and in the original - and apparently unedited - English.

"Life no longer seemed like a series of Random events," she writes. "I also began to see that being Rich and Famous wasn't going to bring me lasting fulfillment and that it was not the end of the journey."

The Kabbalah Center's devotees have included other celebrities such as Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears. Many mainstream Jewish scholars see the Center's self-help teachings, its sale of Kabbalah-themed merchandise and its embrace by non-Jewish pop stars as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.

Some rabbis were particularly incensed by Madonna's song, "Isaac," about the revered 16th-century Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, which featured on her 2005 album, "Confessions on a Dance Floor."

Jewish tradition has long held that Kabbalah is so complicated and so easily misunderstood that students may only begin to approach it with a strong background in Jewish law and only after age 40. The discipline's elements include the study of mystical texts, prayer and meditation in an attempt to draw closer to the divine.

The criticism appears to have had no effect on Madonna's popularity among Israelis. Originally scheduled to give one concert in Tel Aviv, Madonna added a second after the first show quickly sold out.

Madonna's last concert in Israel was in 1993, during her "Girlie Show" tour.

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