We are pleased to announce that the 2022-23 selection for One Book, One Jewish Community is Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Matti Friedman.
The little-known story of Leonard Cohen’s concert tour to the front lines of the Yom Kippur War, including never-before-seen selections from an unfinished manuscript by Cohen and rare photographs. Selected by Vanity Fair as one of the best books of 2022.
In October 1973, the poet and singer Leonard Cohen—thirty-nine years old, famous, unhappy, and at a creative dead end—traveled from his home on the Greek island of Hydra to the chaos and bloodshed of the Sinai desert when Egypt attacked Israel on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur. Moving around the front with a guitar and a group of local musicians, Cohen met hundreds of young soldiers, men and women at the worst moment of their lives. Those who survived never forgot the experience. And the war transformed Cohen. He had announced that he was abandoning his music career, but he instead returned to Hydra and to his family, had a second child, and released one of the best albums of his career. In Who by Fire, journalist Matti Friedman gives us a riveting account of those weeks in the Sinai, drawing on Cohen’s previously unpublished writing and original reporting to create a kaleidoscopic depiction of a harrowing, formative moment for both a young country at war and a singer at a crossroads.
Matti Friedman, a journalist, is the author of three previous works of nonfiction.
His 2019 book Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, won the Natan Book Award and the Canadian Jewish Book Award.
Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War (2016) was chosen as a New York Times’ Notable Book and as one of Amazon’s 10 best books of the year. Pumpkinflowers was selected as one of the year’s best by Booklist, Mother Jones, Foreign Affairs, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail. It won the 2017 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish literature and the Canadian Jewish Literary Award for memoir and was shortlisted for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize, the Writer’s Trust Prize, and the Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for military writing (Israel). Editions were published in the US, Britain, Canada, Israel, and China.
The Aleppo Codex, an investigation into the strange fate of an ancient Bible manuscript, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize, the ALA’s Sophie Brody Medal, and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for history. It was translated into seven languages.
Matti’s work as a reporter has taken him from Israel to Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, DC. A former Associated Press correspondent and essayist for the New York Times opinion section, he currently writes a monthly feature for Tablet Magazine. His writing has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, the Atlantic, and elsewhere.
He was born in Toronto and lives in Jerusalem with his family.