Open Letter to Madonna

Dear Madonna/Esther,

I must have been nine when I saw your “Borderline” music video and became an instant fan. Whatever you oozed attracted millions like me. In my innocence, I saw qualities I came to admire as an adult: Assertiveness. Beauty. Passion. Confidence. Self-expression. Female strength.

I followed your career re-inventions, liking some more, some less. No matter, I knew that whatever I loved about you then wasn’t something to mock or put down. It was something good. It came from a place of, may I dare say, holiness.

I felt vindicated when you took to Jewish tradition by becoming interested in Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism. Whatever you oozed back then was mystically tied to the wisdom of our sages. Rays of light exploded from the radical self-expression you symbolized.

I became more convinced of this when you chose “Esther” as your Hebrew name at a time when I was painting the Biblical heroine as Queen of Nightlife. Esther recognized the value of sensuality. No longer a virgin, she seduced King Ahaseurus to save the Jewish people. In the painting, Esther stands firm, serious and purposeful amidst the nihilistic world of mega nightclubs, a theme I dramatize in my novel, The Settler, a modernization of the Esther tale.

queen esther final
Queen Esther by Orit Arfa, Oil on Canvas, 160 x 110 cm

My cosmic threesome fantasy between me, you, and Esther became a foursome when you French-kissed – onstage at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards – your successor, pop princess Britney Spears. In her early years, Britney also oozed those qualities that attracted me to you. Look closely at my painting. Britney was the model for Esther.

“What a sacrilege!” people might cry. I disagree. Pop music is the music of salvation. It’s a genre that’s emblematic of a free, democratic society. It allows individuals – anyone – to step up and say something – whatever they so please – encapsulating their thoughts and emotions in the course of a few melodic minutes, through which we can instantly find ourselves – in love, in anger, in passion, in heartbreak.

Perhaps it’s my love of pop that also leads to my love of Israel. Israel is the only place in the Middle East where people are truly free, especially Jews, to express themselves, where the likes of the Material Girl are appreciated, not ridiculed or slashed or God-forbid mutilated. It’s a gem of individualism in a sea of collective tyrannies.

And so I defended you when people called you a slut, a moron, a bad influence, until….

You betrayed your namesake. You betrayed the people whom you claimed to be a part.

You recently posted on Facebook a love note to Gaza, triggering in the comments a wave of anti-Semitic rants so vile that I think at least one Jew  was attacked in a Paris street from the incitement. Your next post clarified that you don’t support Hamas but “#ceasefire.” Too late. The damage has been done.

Madonna pic

Esther would have loved the IDF. She would have never called for restraint against a people hell-bent on Jewish genocide.

In his groundbreaking commentary of the Esther tale, The Dawn, renowned Biblical scholar Yoram Hazony clarifies a mysterious passage. After the King recounts the Jews’ great military victories against the anti-Jewish minions, the Queen asks him to let them fight again and hang Haman’s sons!

Esther knew, Hazony explains, that Jews had to crush their enemies so decisively as to prevent them from seeking revenge. The blow had to be final, crippling their violent hatred to oblivion. The Jews succeeded, and they were rewarded with a holiday. Freedom of Jewish self-expression was enshrined in the Persian Kingdom with the creation of Purim.

In Gaza, Israel must win decisively. The IDF will have to kill people, even children Hamas deliberately places in the line of fire, to protect Israel’s own children from genocidal murder. It’s what Esther would have demanded.

Madonna, you have lent support to the enemies of the Jews. You have also betrayed me and so many of your loyal fans who thought you represented freedom and light. You have crushed my childhood idol. Maybe it’s better that way. Maybe your extreme self-expression could eventually condone murderous expression. As you show sympathy only for Gazans and call for IDF restraint, I don’t know if I could defend you anymore.

You have more than 18 million followers on Facebook. Have the courage of your supposed Biblical role model to go against the tide to stand up for what’s really right. It’s what I thought such an iconoclast would have done.

No longer yours,


PS. I wish this was really you singing at this very special 2013 Purim party….

About the Author
Orit Arfa is a journalist and author of "The Settler," a novel following the journey of a young woman into Tel Aviv nightlife following her eviction from her home in Gaza in 2005. Like her heroine, Orit is a good girl gone better.