Exactly 70 years later after the birth of Israel and Jews are still wandering the desert. It’s not quite like the 40 year trek of the post Egypt escape. However, the annual Midburn event has 12,000 wandering souls somewhat escape from the societal pressures of ‘default life’ to enter the rough physical conditions of desert living.
Midburn is Israel’s regional Burning Man event, where participants volunteer to build a temporary city in the desert. Thousands of people of all experiences gathered in the Negev desert for the fourth official Midburn event, which started in 2014 with only 3,000 participants. This year, about 1,000 internationals from across the world flew into Israel specifically to explore the third largest Burning Man experience.
Burning Man was created by the recently passed founder, Larry Harvey, who has left a larger than life legacy for the hundreds of thousands of people he has brought together under the ten principles, which set the foundation of the “burner” community. The principles are participation, immediacy, leave no trace, radical inclusion, communal effort, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance and radical self-expression.
The event is based on creativity, expression, kindness and community. Different theme camps create content, serve food, host parties, facilitate workshops or simply offer a stop for shade. This year, the desert saw a wide array of offerings, from an air-conditioned igloo to a greenhouse, from an ice cream stand to fresh lemonade, to name only a few. The gifting culture is less about material objects and more about the simplicity of kindness. No money is exchanged, no vendors are present, and the only item for sale is ice. The event culminates in the burning of most of the massive wooden sculptures which have been built, symbolizing the release and letting go of the experience.
The power of being in the desert for Midburn is delicately exponential. It becomes like a hot spot of both limitless hardship and happiness. The desert forces physical slow down due to its conditions. Dust storms, piercing sun, cold nights and dry air can be rough on both human mind and body.
Basic needs become crucial – shade, water and food – yet there is still a deep sense of abundance and indulgence. When one cold grape or spray of water becomes a lavish luxury, it’s a necessary reminder of how important the simple things are to living a satisfied life.
Seventy years ago, Israel was established. Communal living became the norm and kibbutzim sprang up across the country. As the years fly by, the country has grown, and the economy has skyrocketed, it becomes important to remember where it all began – with a group of Jews wandering the desert, with hope for a home, surrounded by family and celebration, and with shared values in which the state of Israel was built.
For the thousands of seekers who gather at Midburn to get back to the basics, the sense of community, love and acceptance becomes a portal into the daily integration of such worthy values to remember. Perhaps Midburn only lasts for a week; however, the experiences, the moments, the play and the memories filter back into creating depth, soul and value in everyday life.