The rebranding of Kabbalah

Peace conference held to re-direct the cult's focus


Unrest in the Middle East was the topic for the Kabbalah Centre's "Power of Peace" conference this week, the first of its kind for the organisation.

Dr Jehan Sadat, widow of former Egyptian president, was the keynote speaker, with Kabbalah Centre International founder Karen Berg.

Ms Berg spoke of the Butterfly Effect, or how a small change affects the world. She went on to link the power of the conference to the turmoil in the Middle East: "Since we decided to do this conference, it seems to me the energy has gone insane all around the world."

She later described her time living in Jerusalem, and a Palestinian boy friendly with her son. The boy, she claimed, had gone on to become a suicide bomber. She said: "In this world we cannot allow some people to find themselves in this position."

Both Dr Sadat and Ms Berg urged the audience to lobby for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Dr Sadat, whose husband signed the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty with Israeli premier Menachem Begin, described her husband as her "hero" and said she was certain she would one day see a peaceful Middle East.

More than 500 guests included Miriam Gonzalez, wife of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen and philanthropist Lisa Tchenguiz.

Many of the participants were people famed for triumph over adversity, including Richard Taylor, father of murdered schoolboy Damilola, Falklands veteran Simon Weston, Mark Henderson, held captive in Colombia for three months and anti-violence campaigners Barry and Margaret Mizen, whose 15-year-old son Jimmy was murdered.

Mr Weston said he had been unsure what to expect, but was amazed by the "eclectic mix of people from all backgrounds." He added: "All the people here want to see peace, or a relative peace where children don't grow up to be suicide bombers. I have heard some interesting ideas about how to try and make that happen from people here."

An invitation to the conference from fashion designer and Kabbalah Centre student Donna Karan was sent to Noam and Aviva Shalit, parents of the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad - but neither they nor Ms Karan made it.

Last updated: 9:58am, March 4 2011