A Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace

25Sep09

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I have been waiting for Canada’s favorite poet/singer and my own second cousin, Leonard Cohen, to use his recent (and gargantuan) resurgence in fame for the political good. Last night, in front of an audience of 50,000 people in Tel Aviv, his Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace served as a symbol of peace: its goal to raise money for people and families who have been severely affected by the Palestine/Israel conflict. Tickets for the concert sold out in less than a day.

The concert was protested by a Palestinian group bent on boycotting the academic and cultural betterment of Israel (supposedly copycatting the International boycott in South Africa on the apartheid regime). Cohen in turn offered to perform instead in the West Bank. This suggestion was turned down. A local pro-Palestinian group in Montreal also protested the concert by handing out pamphlets in front of Bagels Etc, a restaurant known to be one of Cohen’s favorites

Cohen has created his own charity group, run by a board of Palestinians and Israelis, in order to distribute the funds to community groups.

Cohen’s past does not contain much in the way of political activism, notwithstanding social commentary in his lyrics, notably on his 1988 album, I’m Your Man and 1992’s The Future. Religion and war have also been constant themes in Cohen’s music. His song Lover Lover Lover (1974) was written after spending time in Israel and coming face to face with both Israeli and Arab soldiers.

Cohen was born in Montreal in 1934. He was raised in the Jewish faith but became interested in Buddhism in the 1990s. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1996 at the Mount Baldy Zen Center in California where he lived in seclusion for five years. His recent tour, which began in 2008, is his first in the past 15 years. He has not performed in Israel since the 1970s.

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