Israel’s Burning Man event takes place in the Negev

Nine camp sections, 5,000 people, 120 art installations and larger-than-life wooden structures were burned to the ground. That was this year’s Midburn.

The Negev Desert event is Israel’s interpretation of the Burning Man event, which has been held annually on the west coast of the United States and has been held since 1986.

The five-day event, which took place last week near Arad, is an interactive experience where groups of friends come together to create mini campsites that offer an experience to other camp goers. Money is never exchanged. Instead, people share their resources and find fun through bartering.

The highlight of the event is the effigy, a classic part of Midburn culture. The artists create huge human-like wooden structures and then burn them to the ground before everyone’s eyes. Various structures are burned during the course of the event. Many participants reported that the burning of the effigy felt like a metaphor. Something beautiful and larger than life can still be easily destroyed.

The first Midburn took place in Israel in 2014, but between the difficulty of finding a suitable space and then two years of Covid cancellations, Midburn 2021 finally happened after three and a half years in the making.

An effigy at the Midburn event in the Negev. (credit: SHANNA FULD)

This year there were a series of interesting camps with attractions for “burners”. One camp created a ride called the Moonwalk, which lifted two people into the air and simulated what it might feel like to walk on the moon. Another ran a cabaret club where campers performed shows and served cocktails. There was even a Palestinian camp, where members prepared coffees for guests and offered spankings “for the occupation.” A little daring, but all very fun according to the main organizer of the camp.

“People have laughed a lot and been asking for more,” said the Palestinian camp leader. He wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being accused of collaborating with Israelis. “Humor allows people to talk.”

One of the 10 Midburn principles includes “radical self-expression,” and many times that can extend to nudity, sexual depictions and, for many, drug use.

This year’s Midburn was delayed a month after government officials said the COVID-19 numbers were too high to host such an event.

Organizers said planning the event during Covid’s uncertain and changing period was so stressful that some organizers pulled out, preferring not to spend their efforts working on an event that could close at any time.

“They worked on the effigy for three months, every day, and they didn’t know if it was going to happen in the end or not. And there wasn’t a burn in Israel for three years, so it’s insane that all the artists took a chance on it. [their installations] I wouldn’t have a home, ”said Judy Hazan, a longtime Midburner and volunteer media liaison.

Israel’s last Midburn had 13,000 participants, including 800 tourists from around the world. It is the third largest of its kind and is a recognized offshoot of the Burning Man community. This year, with Israel allowing just 5,000 per event outdoors, ticket prices were increased by around NIS 250 to make up for the lack of heads.

In the middle of the event, the government announced that all restrictions for outdoor events had been removed. The decision, which was pushed by Culture and Sports Minister Chili Trooper, is believed to have been promoted in an effort to include as many runners as possible in the Jerusalem Marathon, which occurred on the final day of Midburn. The news spread quickly, with frustrated burners discussing it in every corner of the mini-city.

“I just heard on the news that the 5,000 restriction will be lifted. That’s funny. A little disappointed because we could have had more friends and people here. But on the other hand, we had Midburn, ”said Ayelet Mizner, Midburn’s public relations representative.

THIS YEAR, “Playa” (a large desert area on the grounds) was home to 120 art installations created entirely by enthusiastic burners. The theme for this year’s event was “Comeback,” in an effort to highlight Midburn’s return after being on hold. Artists could choose whether they wanted to create something with that idea in mind or to make something completely original.

“The fact that 5,000 people put together this many things in a period when there was less money than ever to donate to art… it was incredible,” said Danna Colin.

In addition to being an original Israeli burner, Colin also volunteers on the art scholarship board. She says the committee saw more requests for cash this year than ever. The team worked on twice as many grant applications as they had a budget to meet and ended up awarding NIS 300,000.

An empty desert patch outside the campgrounds housed colorful art installations, lights, structures, places to sit, and even life-size instruments that are meant to be played. The Beach is a place for adventure. The idea is to explore the sites and lose yourself in the artwork with friends. Many of the facilities are illuminated, offering a different experience at night.

“My favorite parts are walking along the Beach, watching the sunrise and sunset and sunrise and sunset again … and dancing,” said Anat Cohen, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post at a dance party at 8 a.m. .

Although a Midburn ticket costs money, the entire event is run by volunteers and many translate their skills into helpful needs of the Midburn community. Nurses and doctors joining the event often take a work shift at the Midburn pop-up clinic, while attorneys and counselors can offer to sit in a tent set up to provide a safe space for people who report that they have been raped on the premises. .

“You see people here who have really demanding jobs. We have a major in the military, some people run tech companies or are professors, and they find the time to make art. Every sign you see, someone created it. “

Midburn finished on Friday and on Saturday people were packing up and heading home. When the burners were back online, social media was flooded with photos of participants showing off their costumes.

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