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.
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.
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.