Israel’s Lady Madonna

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By Benji Lovitt

Published September 09, 2009, issue of September 18, 2009.
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What has blond hair, a fancy for Kabbalah and causes Facebook newsfeeds throughout the Middle East to be bombarded by status updates? If you said Dimona, you’re close. It’s Madonna, and if it seemed as though her two recent shows at the end of her “Sticky and Sweet” tour brought Israel to a standstill — well, they almost did.

While she has visited multiple times in recent years, the Material Girl had not performed her endless catalog of hits in the Jewish state since 1993, when her fashion sense was associated more with an army of teenage imitators, not with kabbalistic red bracelets.

Once the announcement of her most recent performance, on September 1, was confirmed, it didn’t take long for tens of thousands of Madonna-starved fans to snatch up high-priced tickets for it and a second show, added the following day. By whatever attendance estimates you choose to believe, roughly 100,000 people came out to Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Park to scream, dance and cheer on one of Israel’s most high-profile supporters.

American Jews who hear Madonna met with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Tzipi Livni, may wonder what all the fuss is about. But her trip became a national event.

Just ask a local about the great Michael Jackson concert of 1993 or Paul McCartney in 2008, and he’ll remember. Israelis can’t help but be touched and excited by major artists who choose to come when so many stay away.

And when it’s a superstar like Madonna? And you’re able to look back and say that you and 100,000 others saw her back in the summer of ’09? No wonder the buzz lingered long after the music ended.


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