Midburn: Beyond Sold Out

Last weekend, Israeli Burners threw a party billed as “the first Burning Man Regional Event in the Middle East”. Prior to the event, it seemed to be sold out at 2000 tickets, but there wasn’t enough money to get all the art there. Well, it looks like the event was a big success, with 3000 tickets sold. We hope that some of the extra 1000 ticket windfall for the promoters was used to help the artists who were facing a loss on the event (their Indiegogo is still running, having raised $695 of their $18,000 goal).

It looks like it was a great party, with plenty of cool art. Seems like there is a lot of room for future growth too.

San Francisco-based Burner Shawn Saleme’s story at Visual News is the best round-up of the event. Full story and photos here.

The Art and Spirit from Midburn: the New Regional Burning Man Gathering in Israel

TUESDAY 06.10.2014 , POSTED BY 


From June 3-7, 2014 the first official Israeli Burning Man event called “Midburn” took place in the heart of the Negev desertWhile many Israelis participating at the gathering were familiar with the Burning Man event in Nevada, many had not been able to personally attend the Nevada Burn. Half a world away, this was the ripe opening for those who desired to join the unique Burning Man community.

In 2011, a core and committed group of Israeli burners decided to bring the spirit of the event to their own backyard in a greater way. Through meet-ups, dinners and beach burns, the community grew and thrived. This past week, the Midburn brought over 3,000 people to the desert. Around the temporary city, there were 40 theme camps and 25 art installations. For a first time burn, the environment vibrated with the spirit of Burning Man.

The “man” effigy, which is burned towards the end of the event, was a 12 meter tall structure called “Man and Eve” built by Itamar Menczer and crew. It displayed a masculine and feminine figure both with outstretched arms to the sky. Looking at them from their sides, one could see the shape of the original burning man figure that goes up in flames in Nevada each year. The temple, called the Forest of Creation, was commissioned to Shlomi Mir and was designed in the shape of five large trees, all of which could be climbed up on and would light up in blues, green and soft pink colors.


Surrounded by the desert were fractal art installations, laser cubes, forest labyrinths and mirror ponds to interact and play with. One of the most loved art pieces was the “Grandfather” by Gal Bracha, Itamar Faluja and Lior. Standing seven meters high, Grandfather was a hunched over ancient man with his walking stick. His long beard and hair were made from dried palm branches and at night, one could see his red heart beat through his wooden frame. After the event was over, he was burned, floating gracefully to the sky.

With the first Midburn successfully finished, one can only imagine what will next take place in the special deserts and communities of Israel. Check out more information about the movement that is happening with Israeli Burners on their website or Facebook.

Images by Sharon AvrahamMaya Oren and Tzachi Dovrat











Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp called the whole thing bizarre (full story here, via Associated Press):

Midburn in Israel’s Negev desert was a bizarre first attempt at the popular US festival Burning Man

A puzzling sight. A woman wears a unicorn mask at the Midburn festival.

A puzzling sight. A woman wears a unicorn mask at the Midburn festival. Source: AP

FOR the Bedouin Arab shepherds tending their flocks in Israel’s Negev desert last week, it was almost as if aliens had landed from outer space.

Some 3000 people set up a colourful encampment in the dusty moonscape, swinging from hoops by day and burning giant wooden sculptures by night.

It was Midburn, Israel’s first Burning Man festival, modelled after the popular carnival held annually in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Midburn is a mix of “midbar,” Hebrew for desert, and the English word “burn.”

For five days, participants — mostly Israelis — created a temporary city dedicated to creativity, communal living and what the festival calls “radical self-expression.”

Some came costumed in cape or corset. Others, from babies to grandparents, went nude. Participants brought their own food and water, and shared with others. The only thing on sale was ice because of the scorching heat.


Riding around in a sailboat car is completely normal. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Riding around in a sailboat car is completely normal. Source: AP


There were workshops in sculpture, drawing, and touch therapy. There was music and theatre. At the “tent of heaven and hell,” participants were chosen at random for one of two fates: getting massages or doing chores.

During the day, Bedouin shepherds meandered to the fence surrounding the festival to observe the spectacle. When day turned to night, a larger-than-life wooden sculpture was set on fire.

The festival took place a few miles southwest of the desert gravesite of Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, who dreamed of making the Negev desert bloom — though he probably didn’t envision it blossoming with hula hoops and pyrotechnics.

At the end, participants were told to remove their own trash and leave the desert without a trace.


Party goers channelling their inner.

Party goers sprawled across the desert. Source: AP



Not your usual night in the desert.

Not your usual night in the desert. Source: AP



This could be a scene from the moon.

This could be a scene from the moon. Source: AP

Note that, despite the promoters paying for 2 official BMOrg personnel to be there for ranger training, it’s now a week since the event and so far there is nothing from BMOrg or the Burning Man Project about this event. Instead they’re talking up a Shabbat dinner on the Playa this year. According to the Jackedrabbit coverage is “coming soon” on the official blog.

Burning Man’s traveling troubadour and Social Alchemist Bear Kittay was there:

bear midburn 2014 2Year 1 of the Israeli מידברן )'( Midburn summed up. I would have liked to see more Palestinians and Arabs, but other than that, it was a pretty remarkable virgin burn. Incredible to see how acculturated a 2400 person event can be from scratch. I have some cool video content I’ll be editing up and sharing with more in-depth interviews and such. Let’s keep growing these contexts for creative collaboration shall we? I must say, after almost 2 months on the road in South Africa, Singapore, Japan, Israel and Palestine, I’m feeling fired up as ever about the role that these gatherings can have on cultivating ecosystems of cultural transformation. Its great and deeply impactful in first world countries and peaceful regions, and I must say, watching this hatch in fragmented cultures like South Africa and Israel is a whole different ballgame. If we can get this model right, and keep it spreading to the places on earth desperate for this context, we can really, really, foment change
Perhaps someone should inform Mr Kittay that not all Palestinians can travel freely between their country and the occupiers, and most Arabs are not permitted to travel to Israel. Many world leaders have tried to solve this problem – perhaps Burning Man’s “cultural transformation” can succeed where Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, the Pope, Bill Clinton and John Kerry all failed. We look forward to seeing his “cool video content” soon.
[Update 3/21/15 4:07pm] Nimrod Astrahan has asked us to update this story to give him credit for Grandfather, and as a member of the core team and lighting designer .

27 comments on “Midburn: Beyond Sold Out

  1. Pingback: Master Chef: Burning Man | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Pingback: 31 Reasons to Check Out Africa’s Burning Man | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  3. After further checking by me the new Indiegogo campaign is legit, it’s being run by the midburn nonprofit to try and cover the losses that the event suffered due to unexpected last minute expenses (partially because the israeli army, that controls most of the Negev desert as training grounds decided to cancel the location permit a week prior to the event and the organisers had to scramble and find a different location).

  4. i’ll just quote one of Midburn’s community members:

    “I would like to see more African Americans and Mexican immigrants in black rock city. Just saying”

  5. To clear some facts.
    Israeli arabs (about 20% of the population of Israel) are totaly free to travel wherever they want, no restrictions apply to their travel at all and they have exactly the same rights as the rest of Israel’s citizens.
    Palestinians that live in the west bank have travel restrictions and need to seek a permit to travel into Israel since they are not considered Israeli citizens. The Gaza strip is totaly blocked and except for few humanitarian causes they can not travel to Israel at all. Citizens of arab countries can travel to Israel is their country hasa peace agreement with Israel and had diplomatic relations, currently this is limited to Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. The same restrictions apply to israelis who want to travel to arab/muslem countries. Israeli passport holders (who do not have dual citizenship) are not allowed into pakistan, indonesia, malaysia, iran, iraq and a bunch of other countries

    Midburn is being run by a non profit (as are all BM regionals, this is a BMorg demand) I’m pretty sure we will see their full financial report in Q2 of 2015. There is no LLC hiding inside it and we will be able to see all the details.

    As a former Israeli and a former event producer there I can tell you that police (they are the body that approves all public events in Israel) regulations are way more strict and are also quite fluid, the police officer in charge can modify the stipulation according to his personal whim. But there is a minimum requirement, like a metal fencing at least 8′ high surrounding the entire event, lighting that has to cover the entire perimeter, main and back up diesel generators to power this lighting separately, a PA system to cover the entire event with police access to this PA. And yes, a disproportional number of police (paid by the promoter) to patrol the event. Also they must use a bonded security company on top of police (with number of security personnel also stipulated by the police) and can not rely on GP&E volunteers like in BRC.

    Of all the names quoted here I know Sharon Avraham and Rei Dishon.
    Sharon was one of the leads on last years Israeli Core project, he stayed at my house prior to last years burn but I do not know for sure if he is on the Midburn board of directors. (I think he is but am not certain).
    Rei has been my friend for years, not through the BM scene and he is one of the official Israeli regional contacts to the BMorg and is on the board of directors of Midburn.
    This was their first year and although they had a couple of production specialists who volunteered to produce the event the operational budget could have easily fluctuated to to their lack of experience and the lack of experience of authorities working with them. As always the first to suffer when production costs change are the artists. You can have an event with less (or even with no art at all) but you can’t have an event if the police decides you don’t have enough security and you can’t afford them.

    Midburn were trying to keep the price of tickets on a sane level. The minimum wage in Israel is less then $1000 a month, the average is $2600 but the mean salary (that is what half of the israelis are being paid) is $1800 or less, on the other hand the cost of living is very close to the US costs. As it was midburn were being accused of setting prices to high and making the event non accessible to a large chunk of the population, also changes in the operational budget probably occured after the enevt was already sold out so the ticket price hike wasn’t feasible.

    Lastly, I can totaly understand why someone (especially people with english not being their first language) would rather conduct a for the record conversation with you over skype and then leave the burden of transcribing, writing, proofing and editing it to you, the journalist then having to sit down, write, proof, edit a written reply to you that might only bring up further questions that will require repeating this cycle again.

    • Thanks for the reply Borris. They should’ve asked you to speak on their behalf earlier. I read your whole comment and it explained a lot and makes sense – although, not why there were so few Palestinians and Arabs there if they are all free to travel. Sounds like there were a few Bedouin who showed up and had to watch through the 8′ fences.

      My main question remains: what happens to the money? There is an Indiegogo raising $18k for another month for the artists, on the basis that without the money they couldn’t get their art there, and many artists are going to be out of pocket without it. How do we know this money goes to the artists? What are the promoters going to do to make sure that the artists aren’t shafted?

      We are also still interested to know if they are paying a royalty or any other fees to the BMOrg. We have received conflicting information.

      I never said I was a journalist, this is just a free blog where I share my opinions. I do try to stick to verifiable facts and trusted sources, these things are beyond most “journalists” today. The dialog is still open and Midburn are free to answer any and all of our questions at their convenience.

      The reason behind asking all these questions is if Burner culture is to spread all around the world, it seems to me a chance to rebuild “Burner 3.0” as a better model of “Fertility 2.0” (aka BMOrg). Let’s not build a replica, with the same design flaws built in. GIGO.

      It would be great to create Burns that were open, inclusive, authentic – and win/win/win. Not “artists lose, promoters make bank” from the get-go.

      • The reason not many arabs attend is probably the same reason why not many african americans attend the arab society even in Democratic Israel is still highly patriarchal, tribal and conservative. Some people are moving forward but not a lot.

        I know from a reliable source that Midburn did not pay anything to the org or any of its affiliate llc’s. Midburn are at the moment in a financial deficit and will have to work hard to cover it.

        As to indiegogo campaigns, the problem is that anyone can set up a campaign using the name midburn and unless someone brings it to their notice this can fly under the radar. I have no knowledge as to who set this second campaign or what it’s supposed to fund. One of the problems with crowd funding is that in the end you never really know where the money went or what it was used to fund. Again, Midburn, being a non profit under the Israeli laws will have to publish a full financial report of all income and spendings and I’m prettty sure it will be accessible to the general public (I’ll be more then happy to translate it from Hebrew for you once it is published, at some point in Q2 of 2015).

      • great, thank you. Looks like we were right to warn “caveat emptor” to our readers about this Indiegogo campaign, which strangely ends a month after the event. The ensuing backlash was perhaps more about shady characters trying to cover their ass, than “I can haz blog without fact check” like your compatriot alleges.

  6. I wasn’t pleased to read this.
    As an Israeli, most of my friends and family were not granted a VISA to the states, so they couldn’t have attended this years (or next years) burn in Nevada. How is that okay, while maintaining a secured border with a non-friendly being (I don’t even know what it is called, but its definitely not a country) isn’t?
    I’ll recommend an interview with Mohammad Zoabi, an Israeli, Zionist, Arab, Muslim:

      • You’d be surprised to know how many Israelis don’t get a visa, about 50% of my friends who tried didn’t get one. Arabs can visit Israel quite easily, for Palestinians it is indeed harder, but it’s not the Burners fault

      • It’s very easy for Israelis to travel to the US – unless they’re in their 20’s. The official refusal rate for Israelis is 9.7%, but it’s much higher for young people, since the US is scared to death of young Israelis going to the US on a tourist visa and staying to work there illegally.

        And feel free to check out the refusal rates for other countries. It’s not as easy to visit the US (for a dance party, or otherwise) as you might think.


      • great stats Ravy, thanks for sharing. Israel still seems to have one of the lowest refusal rates in the world – I was born in New Zealand, which has a 15% visa rejection rate compared to Israel’s 9%. This might just be because there are other classes of visas than B, for example I am in the US now on an E visa.
        Sounds like Millenial Israelis need to say “we’re just coming for Burning Man” when they land at SFO – trust me, all the Customs and Border staff will know what that means!

      • Yes, that’s what I’m saying.

        The BM community has no affection on who may or may not get a VISA. If you’re there and with a ticket: you’re welcome.

        the same goes for Midburn. They won’t get you that VISA, but if you’re there and with a ticket: you’re more than welcome.

        I just hope to see more “BM-like” events in arab countries, just like I hope to see more democratic arab states and gay/human rights in the middle east, aside Israel.

      • It doesn’t quite work that way. Citizens of most countries (including Israel) need to apply for a visa in their own country (where the consulate would not care if they namedrop Burning Man or not) and already have one when the land in SFO. You didn’t have a problem getting a visa to go to the US – good for you. A lot of other people don’t share that privilege.

      • looks like your problems will be over soon, perhaps in time for next year’s Burn: http://www.jpost.com/International/Hassle-free-travel-US-pushing-to-add-Israel-to-visa-waiver-program-349854

        Meanwhile, supposedly 20% of Israelis are Arabs who can travel freely, and Palestinians only face travel restrictions in the West Bank – so why didn’t they go to Midburn? Clearly it’s not a visa issue.

        Did you see this story on our Facebook page? it’s from Amal, one of the Midburn attendees:

        ” I wrote this personal report about my experience with Midburn, which I left 3 hours after arrival, on my personal fb page. I like to share it with you. I arrived with a friend at the gate this morning and we were told our tickets are missing even though each was bought online separately. We were still tagged with the entry-permit bracelets . Then our second immediate encounter at the gate was with warnings about going beyond a wire fence erected around the event under the pretext of danger and planted mines. I immediately asked which war are these land mines associated with so I would know, in case I get killed by one of those mines , which Arab Israeli war I would be a martyr of! the girl in red bikini did not know. It did not take more than half an hour for me and Laila my friend to go through all “Israeli playa” and the story of land mines just did not sit well with me so we kept asking whether there were real mines around the fence especially that many yoga practices were ongoing. We got assured by others about the hypothetical existence of mines. My friend and I decided it would be more thrilling and worth while our investment to actually leave the Midburn after 2 hours and explore the field around the “fence” .. not more than 500 meters over the hill we drove into an Arab Beduin village and met with eh’layel and his wife samaher and asked them about the mines and the festival nearby . They were so angry to hear about the claimed land mines and they pledged to take their big herd of sheep and tour it all around the wire fence to challenge what they perceived as “a culture of fear” that seems to define this event which they described as an event carried out by “foreigners” on the land of their tribe which is called Azayemeh and that they had no prior notification and no invitation to participate . We gave them our Midburn entry bracelets in the name of our Burn value of Radical Inclusion and head back to Jerusalem via the Dead Sea .”

  7. Glad he mentioned, “I would have liked to see more Palestinians and Arabs.” That was the subject I did not bring up on the previous blog post about Midburn. As you suggest, perhaps it can promote the Radical Inclusion of everyone, and move everyone forward.

Leave a Reply