Friday, September 25, 2009

The High Priest

I kept on telling everyone at work for the entire week that on Thursday I had a meeting with the Jewish High Priest - the Cohen Gadol, the Priest of Priests. I managed to snag an expensive ticket to Leonard Cohen's performance last night in Israel and I was sure the High Priest would bless his audience. I thought about it for quite a number of days - about what a great idea that would be for him to give the priestly blessing to an audience of 47,000.

I was awash in day dreams throughout the day, wishing I was his spiritual tour guide while he was in the country. I'd take him to my friend Ibrahim in the Mt. of Olives, to the Sufi Sheikh on the Via Dolorosa, midnight praying at the Western Wall, etc. etc.

So at 4:30 pm while I was shredding paper, as the last thing I do before I leave the office, people seemed aghast.

"What are you still doing here?"

"I need to clear up my life" I explained. The worst thing would be for me to come back to work on Tuesday, after the Yom Kippur vacation, to a mountain of shit on my desk. I told another person standing at the reception area that I needed to get to the bank to take out some money. I can't go to Tel Aviv penniless.

"Do you want money?" asked another person.

While shredding, I'm telling him "who doesn't want money! Of course I want money."

His generosity would have saved me 1/2 hour which would have gotten me to Tel Aviv a bit earlier. He was worried because he read in the papers that roads would be closed for the concert and was concerned that I wouldn't make it on time.

"Don't worry" I told him. "Leonard will wait for me."

I got the cash, grabbed a taxi to the central bus station and craved a hot dog with sauerkraut to go, but when I saw the huge line waiting for the Tel Aviv buses, I decided I'd rather starve than miss buses. Everyone on line was talking about Leonard - I think half the bus was on its way to Ramat Gan Stadium.

Two buses filled up before I was able to get on one, and 20 minutes later, I was sitting in the front next to a woman with a cane, who told me the best way to walk to the stadium from the bus station. She's a native Tel Avivian, and I listened the entire way to her life story. When we got to Tel Aviv, an American woman listening to our conversation, also going to the concert, decided to do the walk with me. While beginning our walk, I'm telling her that although I really like Leonard Cohen's music, I am not a total fanatic, I don't know the words to all of his songs. And while I said that a young man walking in front of us turned around and shot me a look as if to tell me 'then what the hell are you even seeing him for. You don't belong.... only the 'real' fans belong." But we scurried past him only to meet others from Jerusalem walking in the same direction. One young man, who seemed to know in which direction the stadium was, told us it's about an hour's walk. So we hopped on a bus.

Bad move. The traffic wasn't moving, and the bus was sitting in traffic for 20 minutes. We had only moved a couple of blocks. We all pleaded with the young bus driver to please let us off the bus, but he was adamant to make us wait until the next stop, about a kilometer away. Someone offered to pay his fine, should he be fined for letting us off illegally. I told him the concert is starting in 1/2 hour and we're getting frantic. No one wants to miss even one song.

"You want to party?" the driver asks, thinking that this is some bad-ass rock concert. "Here, let's party" and he turns up the volume on this awful dance club music. Doesn't the shmuck know who Leonard Cohen is?

We all got off the next stop and had about 25 minutes before the concert starts. Leonard is known for being punctual. When we finally got to the stadium, the lines in front of the gates were frightening. Hundreds of people had yet to get into their gate. No one seemed as frantic as I. I went over to gate 10. There was nobody at the gate. It must have been a gate of people who had all come early. The guy looked at my ticket to see if it was a forgery or if it was real. It was real. Thank God it was real because I didn't want to have to kill the guy who sold it to me, which was fine, because I ended up sitting right next to him and his girlfriend.

The concert began one minute after I got to my seat. There was a Bank Discount green bag on my seat, and I thought for a moment that someone had taken my spot. But I saw those green bags everywhere. That's the least that stupid bank can do. I tried for two years to get refinancing on a loan where they were charging me 12% interest. They wouldn't hear of it. So I changed banks. But I'll take the green insulated bag - thank you. Fuckers.

My first thoughts, as the concert began, was - am I going to feel that the concert was worth the 800 shekels I spent? For one, my seats were fabulous. I sat around 30 rows back and only 2 rows up from the floor. I saw the stage clearly, but if I wanted to see Leonard's expressions, I had to look at the screen. The same guy who did Leonard's poetry reading in Hebrew in Jerusalem, had his translations of the lyrics shown as subtitles on the screen. I hope he got to meet the Man for his efforts. The Jerusalem Post's review mirrored the same emotions/reactions/feelings I had about this concert. I knew about 80% of his songs, and I sang along to the ones I knew. I took some photos (to be posted tomorrow) and one video. And I wondered how this man could get everything so perfect - from the simple stage backdrop of flowing chiffon-like curtains, using only different colored lighting for the stage, which didn't annoy the crap out of me because the lighting changes were slow and elegant, just like the entire performance. Leonard's voice was perfect. The band was incredible. He was incredible. The audience was great. Noisy when it had to be, yet when he spoke, you could hear a pin drop. Everything was incredible. So, yes, it was worth the fortune I spent.

I loved the version of Who By Fire (or is the song called "who shall I say is calling?") - probably one of the evenings favorites of mine. The Spanish guitarist/lute player, or whatever that instrument is, was amazing. Cohen gave so many encores, I lost count. I felt tears running down my cheeks by the end.

We must have been on the same wavelength somehow, either that, or I am psychic as all hell, because at the very end, right before he left the stage, he stood at the microphone with his hands up the way Jewish priests bless the people, and Leonard Cohen, the High Priest, blessed the audience in Hebrew with the ancient priestly blessing - “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”


Anonymous said...

I am so glad you enjoyed the concert. Did you know that he fainted at a concert in Spain just last week? he has been on the road so long it must be exhausting. But I felt he always gives it his very best which is the only way to do it, I feel. He is so handsome and so fabulous. I just love him and I cried too. Who knows why.

jerusalemgypsy said...

Yes, I knew about Spain. It was food poisoning. I was worried about him first and then worried about him not playing for us - but thank God it all went well.

DrHGuy said...

Great post. I featured it, in fact, on my blog today: Heck Of A Guy - A Concert-Goer's Perspective On Leonard Cohen's Priestly Blessings At The Tel Aviv Concert

jerusalemgypsy said...

DRHGuy - thank you for posting on your site. I enjoyed reading YOUR post on my post.

arlenedick said...

I read your post on Heck of a Guy's blog. It is so beutiful. I cried.

jerusalemgypsy said...

Arlene,there's a lot of crying ladies out there!! Don't you just want to hug LC?

Anonymous said...

Hey LL Gypsy, I was there too! Wish I'd run into you.
That was intensely wonderful for me too. His bracha was so sweet and sincere -- like our father blessing us. (I wonder if he now feels he belongs here among us?) I wonder if he'll soon return. also wonder when he thought about the birkat hakohanim -- beforehand or spontaneously? Doesn't matter though -- it was the highest!
Loved Ali Abu Awaad's comment "How can I boycott a heart as big as Leonard Cohen?" (What a great soul he is too.)
Enjoy your green bag! ha!

shana tova,

Abe Bird said...

But why giving some of the money to Palestinians? Is it really a good move for peace?

jerusalemgypsy said...

Abe, LC is not donating his money to terror organizations. He's giving his money to Palestinian/Israeli dialogue groups so, yes, it really is a good move for peace.

jerusalemgypsy said...

Hi Michelle, It would have been great to see you too! Have an easy fast. Yes, Ali is right. I'd love to meet him too.

Lizzy said...

Dear Jerusalem Gypsy ~

I loved your blogment [is that a word? I'm sure it must be] on Leonard's concert in Tel Aviv... thanks to DrHGuy for giving us an excerpt of it, plus the link to here, on Leonard's Forum, so we could come and read it all here for ourselves. In so many ways, I can relate to you and just sent on your link and Profile descriptions to a friend of mine here in Florida.

A wonderful, down to earth, description of your experience surrounding your seeing Leonard in Tel Aviv.

I tried to follow the link to rate your blog, but once there, had no clue on how to go about it. The page is so cluttered that my non-techno self couldn't sort through all that's there to simply give you a top rating.

I'm happy beyond all measure that Leonard followed through on his commitment to perform for all of you in the land of his heritage. With my 'relative' proximity to his concerts [as compared to those living in Tel Aviv], I've been fortunate to see him a number of times, so I knew you would find it worth your fortune spent... but was still glad to see your comment stating exactly that.

My heart is with all of you.

~ Lizzy

Lizzy said...

Hi Jerusalem Gypsy ~

I meant to include that it was great to see your faith fulfilled that Leonard would wait for you.

~ Lizzy

eva said...

Hi Jerusalem Gypsy...thank you,
I loved your notes about:

"We must have been on the same wavelength somehow, either that, or I am psychic as all hell, because at the very end, right before he left the stage, he stood at the microphone with his hands up the way Jewish priests bless the people, and Leonard Cohen, the High Priest, blessed the audience in Hebrew with the ancient priestly blessing - “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”

This was probably the main point of the concert, even though wonderful in itself. I myself was at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem for Yom Kippur, and we were all blessed by dozens of Cohanim, while the sun rays shined through the huge vitrage...straight into the arch with the many many Torah scrolls. It was indeed a holy moment...then they danced "How glorious was the high priest when he SAFELY left the Holy of Holiest".

May we all be blessed now after Yom Kippur, Leonard Cohen's Blessing and the Rain on Rosh Hashana, Eva Ariela