There are many stories about how the regional Burning Man group in Israel started. Memory recalls general details better than specifics, and points of view might not agree. But many feel these stories don’t collide, they coincide.
Sharon Avarham, the Artistic Director for Midburn, is happy to explain the basics of his involvement. While working at a summer camp in 2011 for Jewish children in the U.S. Midwest, he was invited to go to Burning Man at the end of the summer. Having missed the chance once before, he made every effort to rearrange his schedule and go. He and his friend Daniel joined the CRTT theme camp and found themselves at home. A random encounter with other Israelis inspired them all to keep in touch once back home.
They did more than keep in touch. A Facebook page was created and grew as other Israeli Burners discovered it. A Burner’s night was started at a bar in Tel Aviv. Theme-based gatherings were held. At one point, Sharon says, those that had been trying for years to organize a Dead Sea burn event were in touch, but nothing manifested. The growing community was content to be part of each other’s lives and share the Burning man vibe. They were hungry for it in fact!
Then there was a birthday party.
One of the participants mentioned that his mother’s 60th birthday was approaching. Why not make it a big event, Burner style? The team took hold of the idea and began adding elements for this beach birthday. In the end “Mama Burn” had a 4-meter effigy, a Temple, and other participatory elements involving the 300 guests.
Sharon explains that this worked out so well, the group was spurred to try another event. Scheduled as a decompression for those returning from Burning Man 2012, “Octoburn” was a three day event that hosted about 2,000 people. Minor problems with the police led to a desire to follow a more formal route, and the Midburn regional group was formed.
Their first official Burning Man project was a four-day crash to create and submit a CORE proposal. Sharon lead the team, pushing a professional designer and an engineer to reshape the collaborative design into a smart and build-able plan.
Now a group of about 40 are collaborating on a 20-foot-tall hand that glows brightly at night. While Sharon has been leading the project overall, the build lead is Itamar “Coosh Coosh” Menczer. Friendly, smiling, very focused on the effort, he spent months with Nati Goldman who designed the structural elements of the project. Itamar has been working with him, learning the methods, and then teaching them to the rest of the team. Aside from working on projects with the Midburn events, he is new to construction, but experienced at working with people in teams.
Burning Man has calmed him. Before he had first heard of this project, he had just gotten out of the army. His mind “thought in a very specific way. The way you should think.” Very regimented and military. His nickname in the army was “Short Fuse.”
In 2012 his childhood friend Sharon invited him to a meeting about an art project “and since then [he has] been on and on about Burning Man, listening to their stories all the time.”
He has changed radically, thanks to the people in Midburn and the local community of Burners in Israel. He says, “Because I got swamped into this process, and Burning Man in general, I feel like I have changed completely. The way I think, the way I see things, the way I think about problems and solve them.”
About the CORE project Itamar says, “All of us were good friends before we came here. We’ve been interested in Burning Man a long time. This project represents our progress: Midburn started as a bunch of people that went to Burning Man and liked the idea, [and are now] a strong group that can create this huge project. The group prays for this kind of thing in Israel. They want this change, they want this mindset. They like the idea to the point where they want to become part of it.”
Yakir “Journey” Rettig, the lead media coordinator for the team, explains how he has learned so much working on this project. “A lot of us don’t have experience. I didn’t know anything about building until a couple weeks ago. Now I feel very confident about building. I even built a table a couple of days ago; I feel very good about it.”
Yakir also has praise to offer for “Vision”. Alon Bar is their fire safety lead, but does more than that. “It’s not by accident that his playa name is Vision,” says Yakir. “He has this way of just planting this seed into someone’s mind.” Vision is also known for his huge head of curly hair.
Vision relates his feelings about the project, ”For me to be part of the Midburn CORE is a dream come true. I’v felt that the community has embraced me with open arms from the very beginning and since then I’ve watched it grow while knowing that I had a part in it. It sounds very hippie I know. But that’s okay because I am a hippie!”
The build is well underway. The lighting on the hand is being completed on playa and then the Hand will be ready to lift into it’s place among benches placed around it. Assuming the weather stays good, their project will be installing drums and other features and be completed Saturday.