Police Refuse Permit for Israeli Burning Man Festival

Organizers of the Midburn festival, a local version of the Burning Man festival in the U.S., say the police made unreasonable demands, including monitoring the site with closed-circuit video cameras.

Shani Litman and Itai Stern
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Israelis push a sailboat art car at the playa during the Israel’s first Midburn festival, June 4, 2014.
Israelis push a sailboat art car at the playa during the Israel’s first Midburn festival, June 4, 2014.Credit: AP
Shani Litman and Itai Stern

The Be'er Sheva District court was due to decide on Sunday whether to allow this year's Midburn festival, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, to proceed as planned, the organizers of the event announced.

The alternative festival, which is scheduled to be held in a desert area near Sde Boker, was refused a permit by the police after the organizers failed to implement the stipulated conditions.

The Midburn is a local version of the American Burning Man festival, which is held annually in the Black Rock desert in northern Nevada. It gets its name from the large wooden effigy that is burned towards the end of every festival.

According to the organizers, they were unable to come to agreement with the police regarding the terms under which the event would be held.

They were informed last week that the event would not be allowed to go ahead, following which they received a court order instructing them to cease all preparations for the festival. An emergency request that the order be withdrawn was rejected by the court.

Festival spokesman Eyal Marcus told Haaretz that the police had specified new terms, including the placing of closed-circuit security cameras at the site, fencing off the entire site and banning the entrance of vehicles. Those conditions had made it impossible to make the necessary preparations, he said.

"As things stand, we don't have a permit from the police to hold the event," Marcus said. "The issue will be discussed in the Be'er Sheva District Court today and hopefully there will be a decision."

He added that the conditions requested by the police were unreasonable had not been required for last year's festival, which went off without incident.

The organizers are expecting some 6,000 people to attend the festival, including about 600 from abroad.

"No one in the police thinks of how it will appear to the foreign participants, who have to deal with such close-mindedness," Marcus said. "It will damage our international image."

The Israel Police said in response that they had requested a court order after the organizers of the event failed to fulfill the police's request for suitable conditions to ensure public safety and security. The court had agreed with the police's assessment after examining all the documentation.

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