Over Locals' Objections, Israeli Burning Man to Be Held Again Near Sde Boker

Residents of Ramat Hanegev Regional Council object to dust and noise

Participants at Midburn, Israel's answer to Burning Man.
\ Ilan Assayag

The Israeli version of the Burning Man festival is to be held in May near Sde Boker, over the objections of local residents. After extensive negotiations, the heads of the association producing the festival, known in Israel as the Midburn festival, reached an agreement with members of Kibbutz Sde Boker to hold it for the next three years at the same site where it was held in previous years.

Early ticket sales began last week for the festival, which will be held from May 14 to May 19. The site for the festival, known as the kokhav in Hebrew, or “star,” because it is at the confluence of three wadis, will continue to host the festival despite major objections from members of the kibbutz and other area residents, mainly from the adjacent college Midreshet Sde Boker. Even the organizers themselves say the site is not ideal, but no alternatives could be found.

The Midburn association said it welcomed the decision and would continue to hold discussions with the kibbutz to minimize damage and nuisances that were seen in past festivals, especially dust and noise.

In past years the organizers and the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council, in whose jurisdiction the festival is held, have been trying unsuccessfully to find an alternative for the “star” site, which is near Kibbutz Sde Boker. The main reason for the difficulty is that most of the open spaces in the Negev are held by the Defense Ministry, the army or the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

A somewhat successful solution in previous years to the large dust cloud that forms over the area of the festival, and that this year might get bigger, is to wet down the area with purified sewage water before, during and after the event. Ramat Hanegev Regional Council chairman Eran Doron said that in previous years the dust cloud hung over the area for a month after the festival.

Nir Adan, director of the Midburn association, told Haaretz a month ago that he would have preferred another, larger, more remote site where the event could take place without bothering the residents. The festival needs about 2,000 dunams of space (494 acres).

The local inhabitants are believed to earn about 4 million shekels ($1.16 million) from the festival, which every year draws about 15,000 people.

Doron’s proposal to hold the event in the Ketziot area of the Negev, which was rejected by the army. He also suggested the Oron area of the Negev, which was opposed by Israel Chemicals, which mines phosphates in the area.

Lack of a suitable alternative site put the festival in jeopardy for this year, but once the agreement was made, tickets could go on sale.

Last year the cost of an adult ticket, good for the duration of the festival, was 780 shekels. In the first round of sales this year, 1,000 tickets were offered for 810 shekels per person. Another 1,000 tickets were to be offered on January 27 and another round of 350 tickets will be put on sale in March.