When it comes to spirituality, Safed lacks nothing. But the Israeli mountain town (also spelled Tzfat) has been struggling economically since last year's war with Hezbollah. That's why local tourism authorities are hoping a Rosh Hashanah visit by the Material Girl will bring real material benefits to its 30,000 residents. Madonna, returning to Israel for the first time since September 2004, plans to visit Safed - the world center of Jewish mysticism - along with Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and other points of interest as part of a tour being organized by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre.
And yet despite these avocations, the 40-something Kenneth Klee said he felt there was something missing in his life. He's now studying for his smicha, or ordination, as a rabbi, which he intends to compliment his sideline as a spiritual counselor.
Pop diva Madonna was among the praying, swaying and singing masses of kabbalah enthusiasts who made the pilgrimage to Israel for the High Holidays, seeking spiritual transformation through a brand of Jewish mysticism.
Marcus Weston is a thin, good-looking Londoner who in his casual attire and unobtrusive kippah could pass for typical Pico-Robertson Modern Orthodox guy. On this cool Tuesday night in December, he offers his audience a reassuring smile.