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New Series To Chronicle Leonard Cohen’s 1973 Yom Kippur War Concerts

'Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai' will be filmed in Israel in 2024
Photo: Mike Lawrie / Getty Images

Leonard Cohen filled arenas around the world during his late career comeback tour between 2008-2013, but a lesser-known series of performances at the frontlines of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in the Sinai desert will soon be at the heart of a new limited TV series from Keshet International and Sixty-Six Media.

Based on Matti Friedman recent book of the same name, Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai will be written by Yehonatan Indursky (Shtisel) and filmed in Israel in 2024. The synopsis reads:

In October 1973, the poet and singer Leonard Cohen — 39 years old, famous, unhappy, and at a creative dead end — traveled to the Sinai desert and inserted himself into the chaos and blood of the Yom Kippur War. Moving around the front with a guitar and a pick-up team of local musicians, Cohen dived headlong into a global crisis and met hundreds of fighting men and women at the worst moment of their lives. Cohen’s audience knew his songs might be the last thing they heard, and those who survived never forgot the experience. The war tour was an electric cultural moment, one that still echoes today — but a moment that only few knew about, until now.

Cohen followed his Israel experience with a new album in 1974, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which included one song penned at an Israeli air force base (“Lover, Lover, Lover”) and another inspired by the Jewish High Holy Days prayer Unetanneh Tokef (“Who by Fire,” sung as a duet with Janis Ian).

An observant Jew for most of his adult life, Cohen died in 2016 at the age of 82. He was recently the subject of the tribute album Here It Is, which featured Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, James Taylor, Norah Jones, Sarah McLachlan, and Mavis Staples.