The Transformational Dance Between Midburn and Israeli Society

I made my way back from the Negev desert about a week after our temporary city, Midburn, was disassembled.

Five days, 8,264 participants, 106 art installations and 130 theme camps left me with a lot to think about after a month in the desert.

Almost every story about a Regional event comes down to personal experiences, journeys, challenges, difficulties, spiritual uplifting and, most of all, transformation.

I’ve been living the Burning Man world for 15 years, and for the last five years a strong Burner community has been alive and kicking right here in Israel. But still “a stranger can’t understand this”, said a police officer in one of the debrief meetings.

The way I see it, the world is made of tiles of inspiration that create participation, which in turn create fresh inspiration — a circle, if you wish.

One of the most inspiring circles I know from this global project is the one behind the scenes. Searching the web usually yields photos, articles and videos from the event itself, but the real magic happens beneath.

Photy by Ilanit Turgeman
The effigy burns as 8,264 Burners watch (Photo by Ilanit Turgeman)

Shining a Light on Us

As I am sitting here, writing in English for the non-Israeli ear, I understand that describing the source of this power is going to be hard — the power that you feel in a temporary city such as Midburn, here in Israel, a multicultural country filled with different religions and diversity.

The main reason for the fast growth of this project is umbilically connected to the fact that we just need it.

Midburn, for so many locals and visitors, is the ability to create an alternative reality that most of us dream of. The ability to live in acceptance, inclusion, friendship and self-reliance is like a lighthouse on a distant shore that is keeping you safe when you are in deep waters.

We live in a conservative country, but when the opportunity to touch the “what if…” presents itself, then we all come out to play.

Challenges and Opportunities

During the past three years, we’ve had quite a complicated relationship with the authorities in Israel. The first time we arrived to plan and build the temporary city in the Negev, we encountered a strict and inflexible police force with a strong “Take It or Leave It” attitude.

We were required to meet unreasonable licensing standards, we were reprimanded and judged and we received unreasonable treatment. Yet we’ve overcome the many challenges.

Our insistence on a cultured and professional discourse matured slowly, until last year we encountered the same police force in a court of law, where we both won and lost.

Inside this circle we were met by more circles — people responsible for maintaining the rules and regulations, who were asked to change their thinking patterns, to be flexible regarding certain rules and to adapt what they know.

Some of these officers had a gleam in their eyes while others did not.

During these three years, we got to know many officials who were interested in our vision and believed in us; we found ourselves talking on the same wavelength.

1. by - Yair Garfinkel
The desert-scape of Midburn. Look familiar? (Photo by Yair Garfinkel)

A Game-changer

The licensing process this year was groundbreaking. After three years of collaboration, during which we had to prove our value, I am proud to say that both sides came to important realizations.

During the plan-approving meeting we do before every event, the Operations Officer of Dimona police station was giving a presentation about “The Festival of the Burning Man”, as they call us. A long but fascinating presentation.

I found it fascinating because it was littered with Burner terms taken from the lexicon of the Midburn and Burning Man community.

The officer presented the event, using terms like playa, Center Camp, Gate, Greeters, the Ten Principles. When he reached the part regarding public order, he declared that “the nomads will maintain public order in the city while the policemen will secure the perimeter in full cooperation with the event organizers”.

This is just a tiny, but very important, glance into the reality behind the scenes.

The way I see it, the human capital has changed the system. It is a game-changer when police officers understand the value of a city like Midburn within the Israeli reality.

What Lies Ahead

Midburn is far from an association with any political agenda, but it is an engine of inspiration for better neighboring, gifting, observing things differently and connecting hearts.

This year’s event hosted over 800 Burners from outside of Israel, who arrived especially for it. For some of you, it may not sound like such a large figure; however, the Ministry of Tourism found these numbers unbelievable.

Along with our fast-growing process, we are experiencing complex challenges. We feel as though we are running very fast, so we try to slow down, to travel at a responsible pace.

This is also a great opportunity to love and cherish our dear friends, AfrikaBurn, and the main Burning Man organization that supports and helps us throughout the entire year.

About the author: Nir Adan

Nir Adan is CEO and co-founder of Midburn and one of four Burning Man Regional Contacts in Israel. He’s been participating in Burning Man since 2001. He was born and raised in the south of Israel, and he’s a proud dad of two desert boys aged 10 and six. He believes in the human power of inspiration to change the world.

33 Comments on “The Transformational Dance Between Midburn and Israeli Society

  • crun kykd says:

    yay! congrats on your achievements. i hope to someday join you all out at Midburn.

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  • Jane Maru says:

    Thank you for the insightful, good news.

    All good things

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  • Joe the Builder says:

    Good work buddy , I look forward to seeing you again!

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  • Ric says:

    Such inspiring news… Hugs…

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  • Elaya says:

    Thank you so much Nir and all the inspiring People that made this Midburn so magical and full of Love and creativity. I am so proud to be one part of this 8264 pieces puzzle, this beatiful present.

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  • Robin says:

    Well done Isreal!! I long to come to Midburn from the mountains of Colorado, USA. Hopefully sooner than later. I would love to support Midburn and all the Israeli burners in what they do. I will start by sharing this article!

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  • Catie Magee says:

    Thank you for sharing this powerful story. As someone who has spent years “behind the scenes” making things go, I can appreciate the deep significance of the work you have engaged in with passion and commitment to change hearts and minds. I have been so inspired by the stories I heard from dear friends who attended Midburn this year. I hope I get the chance to experience it in person someday!

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  • Opal Essence says:

    Congrats Midburn and Nir for making this happen. This does the same as the first burn I experienced, this creates a world of hope. Blessings to everyone!

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  • Lee mason ( pixie) says:

    Thank you for this .. As an international burner attending Midburn I found great connections and organizational tethers . I decided to be involved with the gate and seeing the obstacles overcome was inspiring the police presence was gentle and sensitive . I thought it would be a trial by fire in the dry desert but the powder kept me safe .. You are a beautiful dedicated group of individuals .. Israel needs Midburn, not just for the tourism , the lessons and the growth it inspires but for linking of hearts and minds .. Each one teach one .. Gratitude dear Nir and everyone …all of us .

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  • Basil Bibi says:

    Hi, are Palestinians allowed to attend?

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    • Tzachi Maya says:

      Any Palestinian with Israeli citizenship (20% of Israel citizens are Palestinians), or permit/visa to stay in Israel is not only allowed, but also most welcome (Just like any non American needs a visa to the US to be able to attend the burning man).

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    • Anat says:

      So many ignorant comments here.
      Recommends that all anti-Semites BDS study history. And learn a little about life in Israel.
      Bedouins originating from Saudi Arabia were nomadic and had never been landowners.Until 1948 there were no Bedouins in the Negev, it was impossible to live there because there were no water sources and everything was deserted !!
      You are invited to read the decision of the United Nations and to understand that the Negev is an integral part of Israel.
      Until 1948 there was no state of “Palestine” Arabs can not say the letter P! Palestine is the name the Romans gave to Judah as revenge
      Also there has never been a Palestinian state in the West Bank.. was a demilitarized zone controlled by the British.
      Gaza was part of the State of Egypt.! IN David Kamp agreements, the Egyptian government agreed that it would remain on the Israeli side, because Israel has provided electricity and water excluding food produce farmers who lived there. Palestine never was part of gaza !! Palestine was never existed!!
      I invited all of you to explore the Islamic movement.
      Israel contrary to a lot of countries in Europe and the United States, allows for full rights for Muslims including the construction of mosques in every Arab village !!
      Apartheid ?????? Are not you tired of this lie ??? People laugh at you !!
      Anywhere can come across lawyers, doctors, teachers, workers in stores, pharmacies, evenings live The integration control. Even in the Knesset! (Parliament)ther is Arab parties and not only one!
      Most Arabs do not want a Palestinian state, preferring to be Israelis.
      midbrn is a reflection of the israeli society !!
      Israel is a country that develops more and espouses at higher values of partnership unity, love, there are tons of people in Israel, creative, humane and loving people.
      Enough with your false propaganda~ BDS..

      Report comment

      Reply

      Report comment

    • anat says:

      Cut the bullshit! No Jew was allowed to visit Palestine .. Do not confuse the equality. You get a response clarifies your fundamental mistake.

      Report comment

  • indira says:

    How do you reconcile the values or Burning Man with the apartheid policies of Israel towards Palestinians, the continued illegal occupation and expansion of settler colonies in Palestine, dropping bombs on women and children in Gaza and the forced removal of Bedouin people from the Negev?

    Report comment

    • Anat says:

      So many ignorant comments here.
      Recommends that all anti-Semites BDS study history. And learn a little about life in Israel.
      Bedouins originating from Saudi Arabia were nomadic and had never been landowners.Until 1948 there were no Bedouins in the Negev, it was impossible to live there because there were no water sources and everything was deserted !!
        You are invited to read the decision of the United Nations and to understand that the Negev is an integral part of Israel.
      Until 1948 there was no state of “Palestine” Arabs can not say the letter P! Palestine is the name the Romans gave to Judah as revenge
      Also there has never been a Palestinian state in the West Bank.. was a demilitarized zone controlled by the British.
      Gaza was part of the State of Egypt.! IN David Kamp agreements, the Egyptian government agreed that it would remain on the Israeli side, because Israel has provided electricity and water excluding food produce farmers who lived there. Palestine never was part of gaza !! Palestine was never existed!!
      I invited all of you to explore the Islamic movement.
      Israel contrary to a lot of countries in Europe and the United States, allows for full rights for Muslims including the construction of mosques in every Arab village !!
      Apartheid ?????? Are not you tired of this lie ??? People laugh at you !!
      Anywhere can come across lawyers, doctors, teachers, workers in stores, pharmacies, evenings live The integration control. Even in the Knesset! (Parliament)ther is Arab parties and not only one!
      Most Arabs do not want a Palestinian state, preferring to be Israelis.
      midbrn is a reflection of the israeli society !!
      Israel is a country that develops more and espouses at higher values of partnership unity, love, there are tons of people in Israel, creative, humane and loving people.
      Enough with your false propaganda~ BDS..

      Report comment

      • indira says:

        It’s sad that your response to a simple question about whether Palestinians are allowed to join is a knee-jerk reaction filled with anger and hate. That’s not at all in the spirit of Burning Man, but maybe if you knew the true meaning of equality, peace, fairness and freedom, you would understand this.

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      • Pink says:

        Weird that Palestine never existed according to you. I had Palestinian coins when I was a kid; I guess they were fakes?

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    • Amazed by stupidity says:

      How do you reconcile the values or Burning Man with the apartheid policies of the USA towards Black and Native American people, the continued illegal occupation and expansion of settler colonies in the United stated, dropping bombs on women and children in Europe, Iraq, Afganistan, Vietnam, Libya etc. and the forced removal of Native Americans people from the entire united states?

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  • Anat says:

    So many ignorant comments here.
       Recommends that all anti-Semites BDS study history. And learn a little about life in Israel.
       Bedouins originating from Saudi Arabia were nomadic and had never been landowners.
      Until 1948 there was no state of “Palestine” Arabs can not say the letter P! Palestine is the name the Romans gave to Judah as revenge
    Also there has never been a Palestinian state in the West Bank.. was a demilitarized zone controlled by the British.
     Gaza was part of the State of Egypt.! IN David Kamp agreements, the Egyptian government agreed that it would remain on the Israeli side, because Israel has provided electricity and water excluding food produce farmers who lived there. Palestine never was part of gaza !! Palestine was never existed!!
     I invited all of you to explore the Islamic movement.
     Israel contrary to a lot of countries in Europe and the United States, allows for full rights for Muslims including the construction of mosques in every Arab village !!
     Apartheid ?????? Are not you tired of this lie ??? People laugh at you !!
     Anywhere can come across lawyers, doctors, teachers, workers in stores, pharmacies, evenings live The integration control. Even in the Knesset! (Parliament)ther is Arab parties and not only one!
     Most Arabs do not want a Palestinian state, preferring to be Israelis.
      midbrn is a reflection of the israeli society !!
    Israel is a country that develops more and espouses at higher values of partnership unity, love, there are tons of people in Israel, creative, humane and loving people.
    Enough with your false propaganda~ BDS..
     

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    • Free Palestine says:

      You sound like a person with a lot of anger inside. Most of the comments here are praising MidBurn but you start by calling them ignorant. Then you copy and paste the same angry rant three times.

      Report comment

      • anat says:

        My comment relates to all Muslim anti-Semites, trolls looking for just slander. No anger.
          There disgust from all yours patterns lie, your obsessive spread lies about israel.

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  • vixen says:

    Midburn is truly a beautiful event. It has large scale powerful art with a meaning. The people and the efforts put in to this event is heartwarming. However, coming from abroad I felt radical inclusion was lacking. The majority of camps where fenced off creating a barrier that wasnt inclusive. I had to force myself to walk in to camps. Im very social and never struggle but here I felt myself tired. Tired to throw myself out there but in the name of radical self reliance I radically included myself. I also felt that the majority of signs and workshops where in hebrew making me more and more an outsider observing the israelis burn. I already felt this coming in to the burn that most information was in hebrew and I couldnt get involved. You should aim to create a platform that everyone can participate equally regardless of numbers of previous burns or heritage. Anyways it was still beautiful to wander alone and just take in the sights. It wasnt what I expected but I learned to be open to outcome and not attached to outcome. In some cases I was forced to radically change my perception which I am grateful for. There were times when me and other swedish campmates went in to art installations and tried to figure the whole story out by trying out and analyzing the set up which provided great laughts.. but then again… it was tyring. Will I come back? Most likely no. I couldnt make it to my home. I will however come to Decompression (or try to) to see all my campmates again that made my experience amazing. For me Midburn was an excuse to see Israel and understand the country and for that I am also grateful for. Its truly a place to experience. Do not have ideas or thoughts about something you havent experienced. Unlike Midburn Tel Aviv was the most radically inclusive city Ive been to. Anyways, this is all I had to say for now. Much love to everyone. I appreciate all the hard work and efforts that was put into this and I am happy that I was a part of it. Struggles and all, this is where we grow.

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    • crun kykd says:

      Thanks for your insightful comments. I hope to someday attend Midburn myself. And your observations tell me it is still a young event trying to find its way. So long as we all are headed towards the same North Star, things will turn out ok. Radical inclusion and acceptance is the mythical north star for all humanity. I know it’s possible. I saw it first hand for 7 days in the Nevada desert.

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  • Chandra- Officer Hops says:

    I feel very proud to be apart of this challenging and beautiful event!-Midburn!! I attended Burning man since 2009. I met my love at the 2014 Burn in BLC, and moved to Isreal end of 2014. Volunteering at Midburn has been a life changing and incredible gift for me. Israelis burners are incredible people doing incredible work. Thank you Nir for the incredible person you are and the amazing leader ship you give.

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  • Giovanni Pollo says:

    Yes !! it was a great burn, a great time and I hope to see the progression moving forward with the politics of the event. I think there is still some work to do within the culture to pump up the abrasiveness of the true culture, but all in all it was fun and I will be back again next year…

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  • GILLY KACENELENBOGEN says:

    Beautiful inspiration words and work Nir. Very proud to be a part of it.
    Wish all of us to create ,dream and spread our love.always

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  • Yehavit says:

    So proud to be part of this and to know you Nir.
    I truly believe that this community will lead change in this harsh little country we call home. Running away is always the easy way out. However, building and creating an inspirational culture in the midst of conflict is much more challenging, yet powerful and rewarding.

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  • Joe says:

    I am glad to leave a comment having never attended the Israeli Burn, but lived in Israel for 5 years, and been to Burning Man in Nevada once, I feel like I somewhat understand both cultures, as an observer, and participant. As an American, I never really felt that I was truly Israeli, though I lived there for 5 years, and ended up married to an Israeli. We all share the value that Radical Inclusion brings, but setting aside prejudgements and our own mind-shackles that keep us bound in labels of place or time, can be harder for some than others. I found that in both places you can side step alot of the BS by being truly loving to others and yourself, and sure, you may get hurt here and there but for the most part people love back. I wish every country had a burn and I could go to all of them at once. Until then Shalom, Salam, and Peace out!

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  • Asaf Shak says:

    Great job. As someone who did BM in 2013 and going again this year, it is my dream to visit Midburn soon. Amazing job you did there guys

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  • Stan says:

    Midburn sounds like a bucket list item. Been several local burns and Black Rock City. Would like to go back to the ME, this time with a camera pencils and paper, not a rifle. I did meet some cool people in the IDF, but like everyone that’s ever been down range, We would have given anything to be somewhere other that there.
    Peace on earth, good will towards men!!
    The boyscout.

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  • Isreael needs this badly and I’m excited that you’ve created this refuge for expression, dialogue, dissolution of artificial boundaries into understanding and compassion. I meet young Israelis each time I am in India. They are fresh out of the military and they are there seeking a feeling of freedom. They seem to be trying to find their way back to a peaceful place inside.

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  • big Daddy says:

    “After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.”
    Big Daddy

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