'Israel's Burning Man' festival in jeopardy as police refuse to give permit

Organizers said they expect 6,000 to take part in the festival, including hundreds of tourists from 48 countries.

May 17, 2015 14:40
3 minute read.
The Temple of Grace burns on the last day of the Burning Man 2014 festival

The Temple of Grace burns on the last day of the Burning Man 2014 "Caravansary" arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel’s version of the “Burning Man” festival appears to be going up in smoke as police refuse to issue a permit, just days before thousands of people are scheduled to take part in the festivities in the desert in Ramat Hanegev.

Mid-afternoon on Sunday, organizers said the presiding judge in the Beersheba District court lifted a stop-work order on the festival secured on Thursday. Police have yet to issue a permit, though, and the court will hold a final hearing on the matter on Monday.

In a statement on Sunday, festival organizers said police demanded that they ban the entry of vehicles for disabled people and that they post closed-circuit television cameras that they claim also would be able to film inside tents where participants would be sleeping.

Eyal Marcus, spokesman for the festival known as Midburn, said he believes the police are just looking for an excuse to cancel the event.

“We’re simply in shock by how they’re treating us,” Marcus said.

In addition to the requirement to put cameras at the event, he said the police also are demanding that no glass of any sort be allowed, despite the fact that it’s a five-day festival and attendees must bring all of their own food and drink, and that there be no nudity. The event is expected to draw 6,000 attendees, including hundreds of tourists from 48 countries.

According to organizers, canceling the event, which is scheduled to be held May 20-24, will not only cause economic damage to struggling residents in the South, but also will mean Israel will miss out on “a popular cultural and artistic event that shows a beautiful face of Israel and serves as an important hasbara (public diplomacy) tool.”

They called the police demands unreasonable and said they reflect “a misunderstanding about the nature of the event.”

“It’s clear that the police are looking at all of us as though we’re just a bunch of druggies and that this is an event for drugs,” Marcus said.

Organizers also claim that police have refused to agree to a dialogue with them and that they already secured permits from the fire department, the Israel Lands Authority, Magen David Adom paramedics and The Israel Parks and Lands Authority, leaving the police permit as the only hurdle left.

The Southern District police said in a statement that the stop-work order was issued by the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court at the request of police after organizers did not meet their responsibility “to keep the peace and protect the well-being and security of the public.”

The police said they were told by the court that “it’s impossible to deny the severity of the danger posed by holding this event without the proper business permits or police permits.”

Last June, the first Midburn event was held in southern Israel, bringing together some 3,000 attendees.

The event is considered a “regional Burning Man,” based on the event, which for decades, has brought thousands of people to the Nevada desert for days of art installations, raves and various forms of “radical self-expression.”

As at the original Burning Man, at Midburn no cash transactions are allowed and the event is non-profit.

Midburn 2015 is scheduled to host some 6,000 people, including 500 children and hundreds of volunteers. Though children and volunteers are not charged, organizers sold more than 5,000 tickets ranging in price from NIS 480 shekels for those who purchased tickets early to NIS 580 for those bought closer to the festival dates.

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