Pop music star Madonna treated tens of thousands of ecstatic fans in Israel to the inaugural show of her "MDNA" world tour on Thursday, performing in a country where she has long claimed a special bond.
Madonna performed to a crowd of 33,000 at the Ramat Gan stadium. The show was slightly delayed due to a number of technical malfunctions.
The "Material Girl," a devotee of a form of Jewish mysticism known as Kabbalah, danced, bumped, grinded and vogued in flashy costumes to a raucous crowd at a stadium near Tel Aviv.
Madonna emerged on stage in a confessional, breaking through its glass window using a rifle, which she then aimed at the audience. She wore a skin-tight black outfit to sing her first song, "Girl Gone Wild," accompanied by dancers dressed as monks.
She went on to sing "Give Me All Your Luvin'" and a mash-up of the classic "Express Yourself" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," dressed as a marching band conductor.
At one point during the show, Madonna addressed the audience and said she had decided to launch her tour in Israel for one specific reason and that being the Middle East conflict, which she said must stop.
She noted that symbols on the stage represented both Israel and Palestine and sent a message of universal harmony. "We all bleed the same color, we all want to love and be loved."
Madonna on stage in Ramat Gan (Photo: Yaron Brener)
While some artists have opted to boycott Israel because of its policies toward Palestinians, the 53-year-old Madonna's ties to the Jewish state have only strengthened in the last few years.
She has made personal pilgrimages in 2004 and 2007 along with other Kabbalah devotees. She wrapped up her 2008-2009 "Sticky and Sweet" tour with two shows in the Holy Land, her first in 16 years.
33,000 fans showed up for inaugural show (Photo: Yaron Brener)
During that show, she wrapped herself in an Israeli flag and called Israel the "energy center of the world."
She landed in Israel last week, arriving with her children, her boyfriend, Brahim Zaibat and a 70-person entourage. She spent the days leading up to the performance rehearsing for the glitzy show and visiting Kabbalah centers.
With a guitar (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Her spiritual serenity may have been challenged by Israel's aggressive paparazzi, who have been camped outside her beachfront hotel and near the stadium where she is performing. Video of her rehearsals has leaked onto the Internet, and photos of Madonna and her children have appeared in Israel's newspapers almost daily since she arrived.
After Tel Aviv, the "MDNA" tour moves on to Abu Dhabi and includes stops in Istanbul, Buenos Aires and Cleveland, Ohio.
Her last tour grossed more than $400 million.
Eran Bar-On contributed to this report