Activist Silman who set self on fire dies of wounds

57-year-old who self-immolated at Tel Aviv social justice protest succumbs to injuries at Sheba Medical Center.

July 20, 2012 21:08
2 minute read.
Moshe Silman, who set hemself afire in Tel Aviv.

Self-immolator Tel Aviv fire protester Moshe Silman 390. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)


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Moshe Silman, the man who was critically wounded when he set himself on fire last week at a social justice protest in Tel Aviv, succumbed to his wounds Friday. He was being treated at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer for burns over the majority of his body.

According to friends and relatives, Silman's unlucky spiral was sparked by one small debt to the National Insurance Institute (NII). As that debt grew, he lost his business, his property, his home, and eventually suffered a debilitating stroke that left him 100 percent disabled. Despite receiving a meager disability check from the NII, he was barely able to purchase essential medicines let alone pay rent on an apartment. Solidarity protests in his memory are to be held throughout the country Saturday night and, on Friday night, at the spot where he set himself alight last week, hundreds of protestors lit candles and held a vigil in his name. He will be buried Sunday afternoon in Holon.

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At last week's rally, just minutes before he set himself on fire, the 57-year-old Haifa resident distributed a letter explaining why he had no choice but to set himself alight: “The State of Israel has stolen from me and robbed me, left me with nothing and the Tel Aviv District Court blocked me from getting justice.”

He went on to blame the state for his downfall and specifically Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. Silman also highlighted how he was consistently turned down for public housing, as he did not fit the criteria.

“He had no choices left but he was just not ready to live on the streets,” Rabbi Idit Lev, Manager of Rabbis for Human Rights’ Social Justice Project, who has been in close contact with Silman for more than a year attempting to help him navigate impossible bureaucracy and get the state to help him, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview last week.

She said that the irony was that if Silman had gone to live on the streets, even for just two or three weeks he might have qualified for public housing but he was too proud.

Friends of Silman, who joined the social justice protest movement last summer when he moved to Haifa, described him as a gentle man who was, however, very bitter that the state had let him down in this way. Several told The Post in interviews that they had feared he might “do something drastic.”

Silman’s brother-in-law Amram Elul said: “We knew he was fragile and could do something extreme. We tried to talk to him around and we told him it was just an issue of bureaucracy, that it would take time to straighten things out but obviously nothing was helping and he just got fed up with it all.”

Friends and relatives issued statements Friday expressing their sorrow and regret over Silman’s death.

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