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Leonard Cohen’s 1973 Yom Kippur War Concerts to Get the Limited Drama Series Treatment

Who By Fire, based on a 2022 book of the same name, will chronicle the run of shows Cohen played for Israeli soldiers during the conflict

Leonard Cohen’s visit to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War will be turned into a new limited TV drama, Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai, Variety reports.

The new show is based on journalist Matti Friedman’s 2022 book of the same name. Friedman discovered and was allowed to excerpt sections of an unpublished Cohen manuscript, in which Cohen recalls his decision to travel to the frontlines of the Yom Kippur War amid an emotional, personal, and creative crisis. He eventually found himself in the Sinai desert and performed a series of concerts for Israeli soldiers throughout October 1973.

The title of both the book and the show comes from Cohen’s own song, “Who By Fire,” which appeared on the album he released after his travels during the Yom Kippur War, 1974’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony. The phrase itself comes from the Jewish prayer, “Unetaneh Tokef,” which is recited during Yom Kippur.


“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,” a description of the show reads. “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.”

Who By Fire is scheduled to begin production in Israel in 2024. It will be written by one of the co-creators of the popular drama Shtisel, Yehonatan Indursky. It’s unclear if the Cohen estate is involved in the production; a rep for the estate did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

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