Thursday, May 28, 2015

Working the "Burning Man Festival" in Israel

Poor secular Israelis need some form of release and seek to mimic their idolized Gentile peers in the USA. Thus they came up with “festivals”, a throwback to the 60’s festivals of “hippie” days, where they would gather a few days at a time away from ordinary venues, to leisurely amuse themselves off the ordinary track. Each festival has its “theme” to characterize and label it.

One such recent festival was the “Burning Man Festival”, held in a desert near Kibbutz Sdeh Boker, a few kilometers south of Be’er Sheva. The event mimics its American counterpart, a yearly event in Nevada that’s “dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance”.

The website explains how it works: “They knock together an improvised wooden figure and drag it down to Baker beach .... They light it up, and a curious crowd gathers to watch it burn.”

The holes Israelis crawl into to get to their fun is mid-boggling.

Anyhow, in the thick of secularity, in the middle of all that is devoid of any sanctity, one fearless Chabad emissary (self-appointed soldier) of the Rebbe plies his reach-out agenda to try and influence secular Jews to taste Torah observance.

He’s Michael Kedelburg, a quiet, unassuming fellow, but geared up with immense willpower to accommodate the Rebbe’s wish to reach out to fellow Jews, especially those “kidnapped from birth” by their entirely foreign (Israeli!) culture, to taste Yiddishkeit and participate in a mitzvah or two, for their own sake.

I bumped into him on a visit to Israel last week in Kfar Chabad where he keeps a ship’s container where he stores much of his gear. He told me about his next “festival”. I gave him a few dollars, in addition to that which he got from me on his last trip to America he made months ago to collect for his mission. Just renting a huge tent (see pictures below) cost him $1,000.

Well, since then he wrote me back and sent some pictures. He writes, “The conditions were oppressive; Tremendous heat, a paucity of water and electricity, constant sand storms, chemical toilets, lack of showers, etc.

“Despite the harsh conditions, the activity began Wed. night and continued through the holiday of Shavuot, until Mon. night - five successive days!

“We were kept busy 20 hours a day! Thousands visited our tent, the 'Tent of Israel'. We held classes and get-togethers until dawn. We held private discussions, donned tefillin, handed ladies Shabbat and Holiday candles, had festive meals on Shabbat and Shavuot, ran prayers and, of course, many heard the reading of the Ten Commandments.

“We felt the spiritual thirst many of these travelers were yearning for.”

You can reach Michoel at 0528651551. Here are pictures he sent:

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