IDF veteran tries to set alight Defense Ministry rehab center

Ministry says 38-year-old’s application to be recognized as disabled veteran was denied in 2013; he is taken to hospital in good condition

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative: A Magen David Adom ambulance is seen on the coast of central Israel. (Magen David Adom)
Illustrative: A Magen David Adom ambulance is seen on the coast of central Israel. (Magen David Adom)

An IDF veteran attempted to set fire to a Defense Ministry office that handles the rehabilitation of injured soldiers in northern Israel on Monday morning, the ministry said in a statement.

The man, 38, was lightly harmed in the attempt and taken to a hospital for evaluation.

The ministry said he was apparently disgruntled as his application to be recognized as a wounded veteran had been dismissed in 2013. It said he served in a non-combat position between 2006 and 2008 and had requested to be recognized as a wounded veteran of the Second Lebanon War.

According to the ministry, the man arrived at the Rehabilitation Department’s offices in Tiberias and poured flammable liquid on the entrance.

“Security guards who identified the act reacted quickly and took control of the man within a few seconds,” the ministry said.

Hebrew-language media reports said the guards sprayed the man with a fire extinguisher.

The man was taken to Baruch Padeh Medical Center, where he was listed in good condition.

The hospital said the man, who “tried to set himself on fire,” was undergoing medical tests. The ministry issued a second statement stressing that the suspect did not attempt self-immolation, and only poured the flammable liquid on the door of the building.

It added that in May 2021, the man had requested files from his application several years earlier, and the ministry handed them over to him.

“The Defense Ministry strongly condemns acts of verbal or physical violence against the employees of the Rehabilitation Department and its various facilities,” the ministry said, adding that the case had been handed over to police for further investigation.

Israeli veterans and disabled former soldiers attend a protest for better financial and medical aid and support, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 5, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The incident came hours before Israel begins marking its annual Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims.

Two years ago, IDF veteran Itzik Saidyan self-immolated outside the Petah Tikva offices of the Rehabilitation Department for disabled soldiers in what became a lightning-rod case in Israel.

Saidyan, who has since mostly recovered, said he struggled for years to receive the care he requested for post-traumatic stress disorder, which he said stemmed from his service in the Israeli military.

The Defense Ministry’s treatment for wounded veterans came under intense scrutiny in the weeks following Saidyan’s grim protest.

Veterans and their advocates have long maligned the department as providing woefully insufficient care and subjecting applicants to a bureaucracy so convoluted and tortuous that many were required to hire expensive lawyers to help them navigate the system.

After Saidyan’s self-immolation and the accompanying outcry, the Defense Ministry sought to implement reforms that it had been considering for years but had not had the political will to carry out.

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