Madonna launched her world tour in Israel Thursday night, telling her audience she had chosen the Holy Land as her opening venue in order to emphasize the need for peace.
You can’t admire me and not want peace, she told the 30,000 or so fans massed at Ramat Gan Stadium for the first concert of her MDNA 2012 tour.
The singer, who has been in Israel since Friday, first touring and then rehearsing, had been expected on stage at around 8:45 p.m. Israel time but made the crowd wait an extra 45 minutes before coming out with “Girl Gone Wild.”
The show featured a number of songs off her new album, but was also peppered with classics from her decades long career.
At one point, Madonna came out with a gun to sing the songs “Revolver” and “Gang Bang,” with orange stains appearing a screen behind her when she “shot.”
During the concert, Madonna told the crowd she specifically wanted to start her tour in Israel because of the Middle East conflict. The diva pointed out the symbols on the stage and said they represented both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.
“We are all sons and daughters of the world, we are all people,” she told the crowd. “No matter if you are Muslim, Christian, atheist, gay, straight, black, Asian, we are all people. We all bleed the same color and we all want to love and to be loved.”
Getting the crowd in the groove before her were opening acts DJ Ofer Nissim and DJ Martin Solveig.
Some 4,000 tourists came to Israel just for the concert. Earlier Thursday, Madonna reportedly gave away 600 tickets to Israeli and Palestinian peace activists.
Madonna, who is not Jewish but identifies with the Jewish mystical kabbalah movement, spent the weekend visiting holy sites, including a trip to the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem. She was reportedly asked not to visit the graves of the Kabbalah rabbis in Safed, because it was deemed disrespectful. She also attended a series of Shavuot classes at the Kabbalah Center in Tel Aviv.
The festivities in her honor began a few weeks ago, with a slew of Madonna-oriented bashes, but the official opening party was produced by Shimon Shirazi, known as the gay party king of Tel Aviv’s night life. He hosted the tour’s dancers and backup singers, with Israel’s leading drag queens performing Madonna’s hits.
Most fans, however, had to suffice with the information offered at Madonna Israel, the Facebook fan page for her Israel fans, created by local fan Avihay Asseraf. He and his fellow Madonna-worshippers were evidently hanging around the Ramat Gan Stadium since her arrival Friday, capturing the odd photo and video of her rehearsals.