http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/24/arts/ ... .html?_r=1
September 24, 2009
Leonard Cohen’s Legacy for His Concert in Israel
By ETHAN BRONNER
TEL AVIV — Leonard Cohen’s path to his sold-out concert here Thursday night has been strewn with obstacles.
Those seeking to ostracize Israel through an international boycott demanded that he call it off. When he offered instead a matching concert in the West Bank, Palestinians said no thanks. Amnesty International agreed to help him distribute the concert’s proceeds to peace groups; Amnesty International withdrew. Then last Friday, three days before turning 75, Mr. Cohen collapsed onstage in Valencia, Spain, in the middle of his classic “Bird on a Wire” and was rushed to the hospital.
But he recovered from what was food poisoning or stomach flu, performed smoothly on Monday in Barcelona and is now in Tel Aviv, his manager, Robert B. Kory, said by telephone. Mr. Cohen, he said, is “in great shape.”
Mr. Cohen has billed the performance, in front of 47,000 in the soccer stadium of the suburb Ramat Gan, “A Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace” and is giving the expected profits of $1.5 million to $2 million to a new charity he has created of the same name, run by a board of Israelis and Palestinians, which will distribute money to groups focused on coexistence here.
In particular, Mr. Kory said, the money will go to organizations composed of people who have paid a great personal price because of the dispute and yet are working for peace. Prominent among such groups is the Parents Circle — Families Forum, made up of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost close family members to the conflict.
“When people meet face to face, the walls fall,” said Roni Hirshenson, one of the Israeli founders of the 14-year-old group, who lost his son, Amir, in 1995 when two Palestinian suicide bombers mingled among a group of Israeli soldiers waiting at a bus stop. “We reconcile by learning each other’s narratives, both personal and national.”
Ali Abu Awwad, who lost his older brother, Yusef, in late 2000 to Israeli soldier gunfire outside their village near the West Bank city Hebron, said that the Parents Circle reached out to him and saved him from the depths of anger and despair. He is now an activist promoting nonviolent resistance among Palestinians.
Asked his view about the boycott of Israel, Mr. Awwad said: “We have to open our doors so the whole world can see what we the Palestinians are facing. We should not stop any voice for peace because at the end of day being angry and boycotting will not help. I believe Leonard Cohen has taken a very important step, using his power and investing his energy into finding a solution.”
Mr. Cohen’s goal is larger than this single concert. He wants to inspire fellow musicians to donate the proceeds from one performance in the coming year to Israeli-Palestinian groups focused on reconciliation.
“We’re hoping this is an invitation,” said Mr. Kory, who will be on the board of the new charity. “There are many conflicts and much suffering in the world, but this is one that really puts the whole world at risk and is really worthy of attention.”
Mr. Cohen, who feels his Jewish identity keenly, last performed in Israel more than two decades ago. He also performed for Israeli troops during the 1973 Middle East war.
Efforts to persuade popular artists to boycott Israel have had mixed results. The Pet Shop Boys, Lady Gaga and Madonna have all performed here recently. Madonna, an avid follower of the Jewish mystical tradition called cabala, even wrapped herself in an Israeli flag at her concert and asserted that the country was “the center of the world’s energy.”