Israel desert ablaze with 'Burning Man'

Updated: 2014-06-10 07:30

By Associated Press in Negev Desert, Israel (China Daily)

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Israel desert ablaze with 'Burning Man'

Israelis listen to live music during Israel's first Midburn festival, modeled after the popular Burning Man festival held annually in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, on Wednesday, in the desert near the Israeli kibbutz of Sde Boker. Oded Balilty / Associated Press

For the Bedouin Arab shepherds tending their flocks in Israel's Negev desert last week, it was almost as if aliens had landed from outer space.

Some 3,000 people set up a colorful encampment in the dusty moonscape, swinging from hoops by day and burning giant wooden sculptures by night.

It was Midburn, Israel's first Burning Man festival, modeled after the popular carnival held annually in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. Midburn is a mix of "midbar", Hebrew for desert, and the English word "burn".

For five days, participants - mostly Israelis - created a temporary city dedicated to creativity, communal living and what the festival calls "radical self-expression".

Some came costumed in cape or corset. Others, from babies to grandparents, went nude. Participants brought their own food and water, and shared with others. The only thing on sale was ice because of the scorching heat.

There were workshops in sculpture, drawing and touch therapy. There was music and theater. At the "tent of heaven and hell", participants were chosen at random for one of two fates: getting massages or doing chores.

During the day, Bedouin shepherds meandered to the fence surrounding the festival to observe the spectacle. When day turned to night, a larger-than-life wooden sculpture was set on fire.

The festival took place a few kilometers southwest of the desert gravesite of Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion, who dreamed of making the Negev desert bloom - though he probably didn't envision it blossoming with hula hoops and pyrotechnics.

At the end, participants were told to remove their own trash and leave the desert without a trace.