A Haifa man in his 50s lit himself on fire at a rally in Tel Aviv Saturday night marking the one-year anniversary of the social justice movement.
Moshe Sliman was homeless and had been living in Tel Aviv’s tent city for three weeks before immolating himself in front of a large crowd.
According to witnesses, Silman walked out of a building on Kaplan Street and read aloud a suicide note. He then passed out copies of the note before dousing himself with flammable liquid and setting his body on fire.
Nearby demonstrators threw water on Silman, and he was taken by Magen David Adom crews to Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center in critical condition.
Silman was later transferred to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. On Sunday morning, the director of the burn unit, Dr. Yossi Haik, said Silman was in critical condition and in danger of death, with burns covering over 94 percent of his body.
The note that Silman distributed before setting himself on fire identified him by name and social security number. It stated that he had done his reserve duty for the army until the age of 46, but once he was unable to work, “the State of Israel robbed me of everything and left me with nothing.”
Silman added that “two committees in the Housing Ministry rejected me and I blame the State of Israel, and those bastards Bibi [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and [Finance Minster Yuval] Steinitz, for the humiliation that disabled citizens experience every day, for taking from the poor and giving to the rich.”
Silman’s nephew told Ynet that his uncle had been fighting with both the National Insurance Institute as well as Israel’s Income Tax Authority.
Silman, who owned a shipping business, began experiencing financial difficulties about 10 years ago. Ynet reported that he unsuccessfully tried to sue the National Insurance Institute after his assets were frozen due to mounting debts.
Friends of Silman said he had threatened to do something drastic for some time, even explicitly mentioning to some that he intended to set himself on fire. According to friends, “he refused to be homeless.”
They said he was physically disabled after a stroke, and the state refused to provide him with housing subsidies despite numerous appeals. “The state pissed on him and was completely unwilling to help,” Silman’s friends told Ynet.
The incident prompted memories of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who lit himself aflame on January 4, 2011, setting off the Tunisian revolution and the Arab Spring.
Demonstrations took place Saturday night in two locations in Tel Aviv, as well as in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba and Afula. The protest on Kaplan Street was the largest of all the events, with participants numbering in the thousands according to police and organizers.