Prime minister calls self-torching a ‘great personal tragedy’

Prime minister calls self-torching a ‘great personal tragedy’

Politicians condemn both the act and the conditions that led Moshe Silman to self-immolate

Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaking to the press in mid-July. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaking to the press in mid-July. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The self-immolation of a Haifa man Saturday night is “a great personal tragedy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. Speaking to ministers from his Likud party, the prime minister wished Moshe Silman a swift recovery and called for an inquiry into widely reported economic circumstances that led to Silman’s dramatic Saturday action.

President Shimon Peres called the incident “a low point for Israel. We all pray for the recovery of Moshe Silman.” Peres said he had called the hospital administrator to inquire about Silman’s condition. “I hope the doctors will help him with his suffering as much as possible,” the president said.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud) said that “the act should remind us all of everyday hardships… Companies and individuals should be sensitive and responsive to the plight of others and should help as much as possible.”

MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) wrote on his Facebook page that the “terrible tragedy that occurred at a Tel Aviv demonstration last night requires a thorough examination of the sequence of events and the conduct of the authorities concerning Moses Silman. I intend to contact  the National Insurance Institute, the Housing Ministry, the courts and all the relevant authorities to examine their handling of this matter.”

MK Shelly Yachimovich (Labor), opposition leader, said in a statement that “cruel” conditions of public housing eligibility and the lack of a social safety net brought many like Moshe Silman to despair. “We all pray for his safety and are in grief and shock, but keep in mind that suicide is an extreme act and so must not serve as an example… and certainly must not be regarded as the symbol of the social protest.”

“There are others in Israel like this demonstrator who have fallen between the cracks,” said Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-On. “The shrinking welfare system has turned its back on them and they have lost everything — their home, support and hope.” She added that the “state authorities do not hear their cry.”

Gal-On expressed hope for Silman’s full recovery, and said Israel must “remember that social solidarity and a strong, functional welfare system can help people in a situation like this man’s deal with their despair and deprivation.”

MK Nino Abesadze (Kadima) was an eyewitness to the incident. She said that while she agrees with the social protesters’ demands and can identify and sympathize with Silman’s personal pain, she was shocked by what she saw. “This is not the way to achieve the goals of the protest,” she added, while wishing Silman a full recovery.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), who also attended the demonstration, called Silman’s action a “terrible example” and wrote on his Facebook page, “How deep is the despair of a man who is willing to set himself on fire because of economic hardship? The reality in Israel is producing increasingly desperate people for whom the doors are closing — without a home, work or insurance.” Hanin added that “our society is abandoning too many people.”

Silman, 57, set himself on fire on Saturday night at a social protest rally in Tel Aviv after reading aloud and distributing a suicide note. He had suffered a stroke and lost his business and property due to unpaid fines he owed to the National Insurance Institute. He remained hospitalized in critical condition on Sunday.

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