The Flying Falafels- A Burning Man Community
Attending Burning Man is like living on another planet for a handful of weeks each year.
A blank spot in the desert of Nevada transforms into a city of architectural art pieces and a showcase of unique talent.
It’s a bit of a social experiment, where the normally unrecognized gets a spotlight. Black Rock City, where Burning Man takes place, has its own economy and philosophy.
I’ve been going to Burning Man for nine years, and it has dawned on me that it has been the most consistent thing in my life so far.
It’s been a place I learned more about leadership. Somewhere I get to shed my exterior and be both myself and someone else. It’s where I think a bit deeper without the distractions of everyday life.
Back in 2012, my best friend, Yoav and I decided to buy tickets to Burning Man. But last minute, he couldn’t get a visa.
I was still traveling at the time and met someone in Hawaii who was going, so I ended up deciding to go anyway and camped with him.
I started as a spectator that year, just checking out the scene and meeting up with friends.
The scene is wild and almost surreal. People create huge structures shaped into bombastic or futuristic creations. This could be large animals, sculptures, or floats. There is no limit to what people will construct, and each year the boundaries of creativity are pushed further.
People dress in costumes and create their own branded style. They come in headdresses, feathers, and wigs and make them as elaborate as possible.
At Burning Man, there is no currency. Anything you get as a gift. There is a strong philosophy of giving back. The city is known as “the playa” and there’s a saying in Burning Man that “the playa provides.”
The second year, I decided I wanted to contribute in some way. So I started my own informal camp and we managed to make some falafels, which we handed out to others.
In the spirit of giving back, we gave out falafels and so we became the Flying Falafels.
The Flying Falafels
In 2014, we formalized our operation. We had a name, an event, and a community, which attracts Israeli ex-pats. We became one of the 1,500 theme camps at the festival.
Everyone at Burning Man dons costumes and an alter-ego. At first, I didn’t have a name. But I was wearing a leotard that looked like a romper. It reminded me of a WWF fighter named Bam Bam Bigelow. So from then on, I started going by Bam Bam. Many people at Burning Man now only know me by that name. I shave my head in a reverse mohawk and die it red.
Over the years our camp has grown more complex, with bigger trucks and more equipment. It’s become a full international experience, with our world-famous falafels, a Tahini fountain, and Arak, which is an alcoholic beverage from the Middle East made of grapes and aniseed.
We have to the point where people recognize me in other cities as the leader of the camp. At the festival, you can find 300 people waiting in line in the middle of the dessert for a taste of our fare. We serve over 4000 falafels each year.
The desert can be unforgiving. Whether it is the heat or the intense storms that sweep in, you need to be prepared. There is no food or electricity in the middle of the desert. The elements can stack up against you and things can go wrong.
For me, it’s a big opportunity to connect with family and childhood friends who come all the way from Israel for the event.
It also was the place I first broke the world record for the fastest 100-meter sprint on spring-loaded stilts.
It’s different every year and the event itself has changed over time - in some good ways and some bad.
I find myself leading a community of people who come together in August each year, giving instructions to 20 to 30 people on how the camp will run and why we are there.
Burning Man was canceled in 2020 because of COVID 19. In 2021 we had a renegade event that showed us how the event would have taken place with no ORG . It will return at some point, but we all wonder how it will have changed.
But I’m looking forward to going back and reuniting with a group that has grown into something that is much bigger than I imagined when I started it years ago.
It’s not just a party for me.
I go through emotional ups and downs. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. But it’s a chance to step away from daily life and think a little deeper and live in an experimental society where anything is possible.