Disabled veteran sets himself alight in Yehud
Akiva Mapiai, injured during army training over 20 years ago and now in
heavy debts, told siblings he despaired of fight for rights from
Defense Ministry, social welfare services.
Candle-light vigil for Moshe Silman in Tel Aviv Photo: Michael Omer-Man
A 45-year-old disabled IDF veteran is in critical condition after setting
himself on fire in Yehud, in the central region, on Sunday.
found Akiva Mapiai, from Moshav Bareket, near Ben-Gurion Airport, at a bus stop,
burning next to his wheelchair, and extinguished the flames before paramedics
He was rushed to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer with
extensive burn injuries, particularly to his arms and legs.
disabled in a training accident at age 23, at the IDF Ground Forces Command’s
Tze’elim training base in the western Negev.
In recent weeks, he told his
siblings he had despaired of fighting for rehabilitation rights and other
benefits as a disabled veteran from the Defense Ministry and social welfare
After falling into heavy debt, Mapiai decided to emulate Moshe
Silman, the Haifa man who set himself on fire at the end of a social justice
protest in Tel Aviv on July 14, and died on Friday.
Akiva’s brother, said he had been talking in recent days about “doing what
Mapiai threatened suicide in the past because of the
“impossible bureaucracy” involved in dealing with the Defense Ministry and
social welfare authorities, the brother said.
He took part in IDF veteran
rallies and hired a lawyer to help him get his benefits, a move that ended up
getting him into heavy debt.
Shlomo Mapiai told Ma’ariv, “The army likes
you only when you’re in the ground, not when you’re injured. The bureaucracy
[one needs to get through] to get your rights means that they will not arrive on
time, if at all.”
“That’s why people demonstrate and reach extreme
situations and take extreme acts. And this isn’t the first time,” he added. “We
gave our lives for the state and in the end they throw you away. All IDF
veterans feel like a weight on society.”
Channel 2 quoted social services
sources as saying Mapiai received assistance from social welfare and had
received all of the benefits he was entitled to from the the National Insurance
Institute. The sources said Mapiai had attempted suicide in the past and that
the reasons for his act were personal.
Responding to the incident, social
justice movement activist Daphni Leef said the current wave of people setting
themselves on fire was disturbing and saddening.
“The despair and
suffering of others is translated into violent and dangerous acts of
These are acts of desperation, of surrender to the cruel,
criminal bureaucracy that is not backed by realistic budgets for solving
problems,” she said.
Leef accused the government of ignoring the plight
of such desperate individuals.
She also asked for an end to acts of
“Don’t surrender, don’t give up.
We are fighting here
for a healthy society... We must focus on life,” she said. “Please, don’t hurt
Dudi Gilboa, a member of a veterans group who knew Mapiai,
said, “His story is a difficult one, his emotional and economic situations
Gilboa told Israel Radio he and the wheelchair-bound
veteran had been embroiled in a dispute with authorities in charge of
rehabilitating and helping wounded veterans.
“We have mourned our friends
[lost] in battle, we don’t want to lose them like this,” Gilboa said, also
expressing concern that yet more people would imitate Silman.
evening, a woman walked into a South Tel Aviv kiosk, poured flammable material
on herself and threatened to set herself alight. Passersby called the police and
officers prevented her from using the lighter. Officers took her into custody in
the South Tel Aviv police station.
Labor Party chairwoman Shelly
Yechimovich on Sunday warned against setting oneself on fire as
“[Silman’s] suicide cannot be allowed to become a legitimate act
of protest,” she said. “Taking one’s own life is an extreme and awful act, and
it cannot be idealized.”
Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe
Kahlon said taking such extreme measures was not the way to solve
“A week ago, we set up a joint emergency task force with the
National Insurance Institute to deal with extreme cases, and anyone can call in
if they need help,” the minister said.
The emergency task force’s number
Ruth Eglash and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.