Leonard Cohen’s Visit to 1973 Arab-Israeli War to be Dramatized in TV Series

Leonard Cohen performs at Madison Square Garden
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Keshet International and Sixty-Six Media are developing a new limited television series about Leonard Cohen’s 1973 visit and performance in the Sinai desert during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War (also known as the Yom Kippur War).

According to Variety, Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai is a dramatized adaptation of Matti Friedman’s book of the same name, which tells the story of Cohen’s legendary concert on the frontlines of war. It is scheduled to shoot in Israel in 2024 and will be written by Yehonatan Indursky (Shtisel) and executive produced by Sixty-Six Media’s Jill Offman, KI’s Atar Dekel, and Keshet Broadcasting’s Yuval Horowitz.

“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,” reads the show’s official logline. “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 logline continues. “The war tour was an electric cultural moment, one that still echoes today – but a moment that only few knew about, until now.”

“As a life-long Leonard Cohen fan, I loved Matti Friedman’s brilliant book from the moment I read it,” said exec producer Offman. “With Yehonatan at the helm and with my partners at Keshet, I am very much looking to bringing this his extraordinary story to the screen. I set up Sixty-Six Media looking for undiscovered international stories with universal resonance and it’s an honour to have this as our first project.”

Cohen’s experiences during his trip inspired his album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which he released in 1974. The record included the track “Lover, Lover, Lover,” which he wrote at an Israeli air force base, and “Who by Fire,” which relates to Cohen’s Jewish roots and echoes the words of the Unetanneh Tokef prayer, which has been part of the Yom Kippur tradition for centuries.

Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai, TBA