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mu­sic to which to com­mit sui­cide.

But, hav­ing seen him twice in Lon­don, I can say with cer­tainty that in Is­rael Leonard Co­hen sur­passed him­self. So many of his lyrics have a re­li­gious, bib­li­cal res­o­nance that hear­ing them in Is­rael lent them a new mean­ing. It was only days be­fore Yom Kip­pur and there was Leonard Co­hen singing Who by fire, taken from the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip­pur liturgy. His back-up singers, Hat­tie and Charley Webb, gave a cor­us­cat­ing ren­di­tion of If it be thy will.

For me, prob­a­bly the most hair-on­the-back of the neck mo­ment came with his song The Par­ti­san, writ­ten in French and English. In English, he sings “and then the sol­diers came.... she died without a whis­per”. In French, he sings “Les Alle­mands”, rather than “the sol­diers”. The Ger­mans came. And this he sang to a crowd of 55,000, in which there were al­most cer­tainly the sons and daugh­ters of sur­vivors — and yes, many of them were and had been sol­diers.

This was billed as a Con­cert of Peace and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and much of the near $2 mil­lion pro­ceeds have gone to the Be­reaved Par­ents Cir­cle, a group of Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans who have lost mem­bers of their fam­i­lies to the con­tin­u­ing con­flict. Co­hen made sev­eral ref­er­ences to the group from the stage and said, in yet an­other ref­er­ence to liturgy, that theirs was a “holy, holy, holy” un­der­tak­ing which should re­ceive sup­port.

A friend told me that in re­cent years, any big pop star who took the trou­ble to learn “Shalom, Is­rael” when they took to the stage has been greeted with an al­most pa­thetic, long- ing, re­sponse. Gosh, the out­side world isn’t all bad. They don’t all hate us. See, Madonna said “Shalom”!

But with Leonard Co­hen the re­sponse was dif­fer­ent. What might have been thought cheesy or kitsch — his dec­la­ra­tion of “Mah tovu”, “How goodly are thy tents” — achieved a dif­fer­ent con­no­ta­tion.

This, af­ter all, was Co­hen, the grand­son of a ma­jor He­brew gram­mar­ian, the child of rab­bis, and a com­mit­ted Jew — even though he is also a Bud­dhist monk. This was Co­hen who asked for the words of his songs to be trans­lated into He­brew sub­ti­tles, so that an awed crowd watched as the words of the Psalms, all of which they knew from child­hood, floated across the screens.

And when in one of his three tri­umphant en­cores, Co­hen let the crowd sing First we take Man­hat­tan, then we take Berlin, there was a real sense of af­fir­ma­tion. We are here and we are here to stay, was the mes­sage.

And Leonard Co­hen is Our Jew, and he has come home.

Jenni Frazer is As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor of the JC

Co­hen’s re­li­gious lyrics had par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance in Is­rael last week

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