A new limited TV show from Keshet International and Sixty-Six Media will dramatise Leonard Cohen’s 1973 visit to the frontlines of the Yom Kippur war. Yehonatan Indursky (Shtisel) will pen the script for the Israeli television series, which will begin production in 2024. 

Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai is based on Matti Friedman’s book of the same name, which recounts Cohen’s 1973 concert on the frontlines of war.

The show’s official logline 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.”

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Jill Offman of Sixty-Six Media, who pitched the idea to Keshet, will contribute as executive producer to the series.

“As a life-long Leonard Cohen fan, I loved Matti Friedman’s brilliant book from the moment I read it. 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,” Offman stated.

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In 1974, Cohen released the album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which was inspired by the experiences he had while travelling. The album featured the songs Who by Fire, which is related to Cohen’s Jewish roots and has echoes of the Unetanneh Tokef prayer, which has been a part of Yom Kippur custom for millennia, and Lover, Lover, Lover, which Cohen penned at an Israeli air force base.