Burning Man Project Urges Israeli Organizers to Cancel West Bank Festival

'If the event does move forward, we hope that it won’t cause further harm to the Israeli and international Burning Man communities,' the festival's global network said of the controversial Area C event

Almog Ben Zikri
Hagar Shezaf
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An Israeli woman wears a unicorn mask as she walks in the playa during Israel’s first Midburn festival, Negev desert, June 6, 2014.
An Israeli woman wears a unicorn mask as she walks in the playa during Israel’s first Midburn festival, Negev desert, June 6, 2014.Credit: AP
Almog Ben Zikri
Hagar Shezaf

The Burning Man Project, the U.S.-based umbrella network for regional Burning Man festivals, called on Israeli organizers to call off a festival controversially planned for the West Bank's Area C.  

The organization said it also sought to make sure the public was aware that the festival is not officially affiliated with Burning Man, or with Midburn, its Israeli affiliate.

“Regardless of the fact that this is not an official Regional Event, it has already affected and will continue to affect the global culture and perception of our community,” Burning Man’s statement, published on Midburn’s Facebook page, said.

“We have shared our concerns with one of the leaders of the event and encouraged them to cancel it," the statement added. "We emphasized the fact that the proposed event has already garnered significant negative attention.”

The Man is engulfed in flames as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gathered for the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, U.S. September 2, 2017.
The Man is engulfed in flames as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gathered for the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, U.S. September 2, 2Credit: JIM URQUHART/ REUTERS

Following objections, the name of the event was changed from “Dead Sea Burn” to “Dead Sea Reborn,” so that it doesn’t include the word “Burn.” The organizers have repeatedly clarified that there is no connection between their event and the Burning Man Project, although the event is organized by a member of the Burning Man community, and was to be held in the spirit of Burning Man’s 10 Principles, the community's code.

The organizers previously asserted their choice of venue bore no political significance, but they came under criticism from some members of Israel’s Burning Man community, who said that without coordination with local Palestinians, it would be difficult not to see this as a political step for the movement as a whole. The core Burning Man principles, they asserted, include radical inclusion and civic responsibility.

“In my worldview, I don’t see a world with borders, with lines between people,” festival organizer Yaron Ben-Shoshan told Haaretz in February. He said that all discussion about territories “from my standpoint are political issues that I don’t want to deal with.”

Roni Kantor, one of Midburn’s founders, wrote on Facebook last month that she objected to the venue. “Since Jericho is under Israeli military control over a population that is largely Palestinian and since there is military suppression in the area on a regular basis, to hold an event there without any real participation by Palestinians and any radical effort to include them, would lead to a situation where many people would boycott the event, myself included.”

Midburn has not been able to hold a festival of this scope for several years, as they had difficulty finding a venue. The organization used to hold the event at a site near Sde Boker, south of Be’er Sheva in the Negev. However, protests by local residents forced the group to abandon that location.

A Midburn festival in the Negev desert, 2014
A Midburn festival in the Negev desert, 2014Credit: Michal Fattal

The Burning Man Project urged the organizers to “Consider collaborating with the Midburn team next year to support efforts to find a new appropriate location for that gathering.” 

The statement, however, also said that the steps taken by the organizers to distance the event from the Burning Man community were positive, even though the event is still scheduled to take place.

“If the event does move forward, we hope that it won’t cause further harm to the Israeli and international Burning Man communities, and the understanding of Burning Man culture more broadly,” the statement said.

Dead Sea Reborn’s organizers said they are not giving up "on the opportunity to believe in the possible good. We are continuing contact and we are inviting everyone, from the Midburn association, Burning Man, from Jericho to Tel Aviv to come and experience with us... brotherhood and giving.”

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