Tourism Ministry urges second Leonard Cohen concert

Despite record ticket sales and hopeful fans, another Israel show seems unlikely.

Leonard Cohen 248.88 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
Leonard Cohen 248.88
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
The saga surrounding Leonard Cohen's anticipated concert in Israel continues. The Tourism Ministry announced on Tuesday that its director-general, Noaz Bar-Nir, had approached Cohen's representatives in Israel requesting that the singer consider adding another concert to his visit to Israel - this time in Nazareth. The famed Canadian singer-songwriter is currently scheduled to perform a single concert at the Ramat Gan Stadium on September 24. Tickets to Cohen's concert, titled "A Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace," were sold out within 19 hours of going on sale - an unprecedented record in Israel. Bar-Nir had heard that the singer wanted to play an additional concert in Ramallah, but that it was not going to work out. After discussing the idea with Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, Bar-Nir proposed holding a performance in Nazareth - Israel's largest Arab city and home to a 40,000-capacity outdoor amphitheater (which was specially built for the pope's visit this year). "Nazareth is a commercial, political, communications and cultural center. An additional concert, precisely in this city and in the unique atmosphere that exists there, will attract a large and varied audience from all the sectors of Israeli society, as well as tourists who can listen to moving music, enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds the amphitheater and can realize the concert slogan: reconciliation, tolerance and peace," explained Bar-Nir. Though the Tourism Ministry may be pushing for a gig in Nazareth, nothing suggests that it will happen. According to Ronit Arbel, whose company is in charge of public relations for Cohen's local performance, "an additional Leonard Cohen concert in Israel is not anticipated." And nobody at Nazareth's Culture and Tourism Association had heard anything about a possible Cohen concert in the city - nor had they heard of Cohen at all, for that matter. Staff at the Nazareth mayor's office was also unaware of a possible show. Since the first rumors began circulating months ago that Cohen would be performing in Israel, uncertainty has dogged the details. Though the concert's Israeli organizers said he would be arriving, Cohen's Web site did not include Israel on its tour schedule. Plus, Cohen has faced pressure from Palestinian solidarity groups to cancel the Israeli show. Instead, all of the net proceeds from the Ramat Gan concert will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations working toward conciliation. There were rumors that Cohen, a humanist and peace activist, would also hold a show in Ramallah in order to make a statement about reconciliation. But the Ramallah concert was taken off the table due to pressure from Palestinian groups that viewed it as a step toward normalization of ties with Israel. Even now, Cohen's official tour schedule does not list a show in Israel. But if past precedents are any indication, Cohen will step onstage at 9 p.m. sharp on September 24: He's known for his punctuality.