A man taking part in a social justice protest march Saturday night in Tel Aviv, shocked other demonstrators as he set him self on fire.
The man was rushed to hospital where he's listed in serious condition and YNet News reports he has 3rd degree burns over 80% of his body. Police say 57 year old Moshe Silman from Haifa, Israel poured gasoline on himself before setting himself on fire. Two videos of the incident have been posted on YouTube but a warning they are very disturbing and viewer discretion is advised.
Just before the incident Silman handed out letters to other demonstrators where he blamed the Israeli government for his economic problems. Haaretz quotes the letter saying, "The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless. Two Housing and Construction Ministry committees rejected me, even though I had a stroke," adding that the facts could be confirmed through a public housing company in Haifa. He blames "the state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, for the humiliation that weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich."
The Jerusalem Post says Silman wrote he had received no assistance to pay his rent despite suffering a recent stroke, and was unable to work. The letter claims Silman was eventually able to get 2,300 shekels (about $600usd) per month in disability benefits in order to pay his health insurance and buy medicines. The letter reads, "I have no money for medicine or rent. I served in the army and until the age of 46 served in the reserves. I will not be homeless, that's why I'm protesting against all the injustices done to me and those like me by the state."
An eyewitness tells Ynet, "We saw him leaving a house entrance holding a burning object in one hand and a can with flammable liquid on the other. He started pouring the stuff over himself and immediately set himself on fire, everyone poured water over him."
Another eyewitness Yonatan Sahar tells Haaretz, he was standing next to the man, when suddenly he set himself on fire. "I saw him holding something burning." And when he poured the gasoline on himself he immediately burst into flames. "I didn't know what to do."
Ofer Barkan, a social activist from Haifa says Silman was a taxi driver in Tel Aviv but "when he suffered a stroke which left him unemployed. He moved from Tel Aviv to Haifa because he could not afford life in the city." Barkan says the man had threatened to set himself on fire multiple times, "we felt that he was close to do it, but we didn’t know.”
Fellow activists are planning a march from Silman's home to Haifa municipal offices tomorrow.
Saturday's protest was to mark the one year anniversary of the protest movement that began with a tent city being set up on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. An estimated 10 thousand people took part in the rally and organizer Daphni Leef tells Haaretz that one year later, the activists' message hasn't changed. "We want a fair society." "Today we are also celebrating. Suddenly, when people take to the streets they understand that they have power and that they are right." Like last summer's protesters, most of those taking part Saturday night chanted and carried signs demanding social justice and the return of a welfare state.