Israel's Burning Man Cancelled After Army Turns Down Proposed Location

Organizers call off the annual Midburn festival after failing to secure authorization for its new location in a military training area

File photo: Attendees dance at a party during the Midburn festival in southern Israel, May 21, 2015.
Ilan Assayag

This year's annual Israeli version of the Burning Man Festival has been cancelled after the Israeli army rejected organizers' proposed location in southern Israel.

The Midburn association announced on Thursday it is looking into the possibility of holding a smaller event later this year.

The festival, attended by thousands of revelers since it was first held in 2014, took place in recent years on a site near Sde Boker, south of Be'er Sheva in the Negev desert. However, it was relocated due to protest by local residents.

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Midburn is modeled after Nevada's long-running Burning Man festival, with the aim of "creating a platform which will allow a communal life style, creativity, art and radical self-expression," according to its official website.

A military training area in Har Shahar Valley, some 20 kilometers north of Sde Boker, had been proposed for this year's event, slated for June. The Defense Ministry gave its preliminary approval to use the area, but eventually the Israel Defense Forces turned down the organizers' request due to the army's training schedule, a local official said.

Organizers said in a statement they are looking into alternatives, but stressed that the procedures needed to secure a new location with the Defense Ministry, the IDF or the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which hold most open spaces in the Negev, would not be completed before June.

Eran Doron, chairman of the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council, in whose jurisdiction the festival was held in previous years, told Haaretz that the six-day event could be held in other sites.

"I love the festival, but this is an absurd situation," Doron said. "They can't find a thousand dunams (247 acres) anywhere in the great Negev to hold such an event. I think this event is positive and worth the environmental price tag, but not on the previous site."