Israeli Burning Man-style Event Planned for West Bank Sparks Controversy

An initiative from Israel's "Burner" community to hold a Burning Man-style event in the West Bank's Area C is causing controversy among the festival's devotees, as the international community views the location as occupied territory.

The organizers of “Dead Sea Burn” assert that their choice of venue in the West Bank's northern Dead Sea region bears no political significance. But members of Midburn, Israel's Burning Man community, have voiced opposition to holding the event without coordination with local Palestinians in a conflict zone.

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Israel’s Midburn association, the official representative of U.S.-based Burning Man, was established in 2012. It is modeled after Nevada's long-running Burning Man festival, with the aim of "creating a platform which will allow a communal lifestyle, creativity, art and radical self-expression," according to its official website.

The association has organized main events for the community since 2014, such as a Midburn Festival in the Negev, which has attracted thousands of devoted attendees each year. But residents of Sde Boker have raised opposition to the festival in recent years, saying that the event causes serious environmental damage, health hazards and noise pollution, which has made it difficult for the association to organize the event.

Last year, the organization was given approval to use a military training area in Israel's south, but the group's request was turned down by the Israel Defense Forces due to the army's training schedule. This year, the group said the festival would not be held in the Negev, and that it was looking for a different site.

'Holding an event in occupied territory is a political step'

A few community members took it upon themselves to organize an independent event to be held in April, for which they have chosen a 130-acre site in the northern Dead Sea region, near the Almog settlement. Although the organizers have not yet been granted police approval to hold the festival, which usually happens days before an event is scheduled, ticket sales are set to begin this week. The event will be limited to 15,000 participants, but only about a thousand are expected to attend.