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Leonard Cohen’s Yom Kippur War trip to Israel gets dramatic adaptation

TV miniseries based on recent book by Matti Friedman is being developed by Keshet International, with filming slated to begin in 2024

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Leonard Cohen, center, performs with Israeli singer Matti Caspi, on guitar, for Israeli troops in the Sinai in 1973. Ariel Sharon is to the left of Cohen, with arms crossed. (Yakovi Doron)
Leonard Cohen, center, performs with Israeli singer Matti Caspi, on guitar, for Israeli troops in the Sinai in 1973. (Yakovi Doron)

The fabled tale of Leonard Cohen’s frontline performances for Israeli troops during the 1973 Yom Kippur War is being turned into a TV miniseries aimed at global audiences.

The upcoming show, “Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai,” is based on a book of the same name by Israel-Canadian journalist Matti Friedman that was published earlier this year, and is being produced by Keshet International.

The book — which takes its name from a 1974 song by Cohen inspired by a famed Yom Kippur prayer — recounts the surprising tale of his trip to entertain troops on the frontlines of the chaotic and devastating war.

It also explores why the legendary singer-songwriter almost never spoke about the experience afterward — going so far as to write and then discard a lyric in his song “Lover, Lover, Lover” that spoke of going “down to the desert to help my brothers fight.”

The six-part miniseries is being written by Yehonatan Indursky, who wrote and created the popular “Shtisel” TV show, and executive produced by Jill Offman of Sixty-Six Media, as well as Atar Dekel of Keshet International and Yuval Horowitz of Keshet Broadcasting.

Filming for the miniseries is expected to begin in early 2024 in Israel. The show is slated to air in Israel on Keshet’s Channel 12 and is currently seeking an international distributor.

Related: Why Leonard Cohen joined a war to sing for his brothers, and never spoke of it again

“Leonard Cohen’s 1973 tour was an extraordinary cultural moment that inspired some of his most beloved works,” said Horowitz in a statement, noting his excitement to “bring the real story to audiences around the world for the first time.”

Dekel said that “‘Who By Fire’ strengthens Keshet’s commitment to bring Israeli dramas to Israelis’ screens before sharing them with the rest of the world.”

In a tweet on Monday, Friedman lauded the “great team [that] has come together to bring ‘Who by Fire’ to the screen.”

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