Magen David Adom ambulances 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The social justice protests, which were sparked last year by university students
angry over the exorbitant rent prices in Tel Aviv, are moving in a new direction
by taking up the cause of the weak and struggling, Gila Gamliel, deputy minister
for the advancement of young people, students and women, told The Jerusalem Post
Gamliel, who spent last summer meeting with student protest
leaders and has followed up on some of their demands, said that several key
steps taken by the government have eased the burden on students – allowing them
to focus their energies on helping those facing deeper social and economic
“We addressed many of their [the students’] problems this
year,” said Gamliel, highlighting steps to create affordable student housing and
provide discounts on public transport, paid maternity leave for those in higher
education and other financial aid.
“Now they have more time to fight for
the weaker people and get involved in influencing the decisions of the state,”
she observed, adding that it is time for the government to create new public
housing and disperse existing impoverished neighborhoods.
The Likud MK
also said that it was time for the government to “think outside the box” to find
a solution to all the social problems highlighted over the past year and
especially over the past few weeks, after two individuals set themselves on fire
in protest and several others attempted to do the same.
“It is time for
the government to respond,” she stated, adding that there needs to be a way to
create hope for those who are desperate enough to commit suicide in this
On Monday, two men reportedly attempted to set themselves alight to
draw attention to their financial struggles.
While neither of the men – a
47-year-old from Netivot and a 65-year-old from Ofakim – succeeded in striking
the match, the acts follow in the footsteps of social justice activist Moshe
Silman, who set himself aflame during a social justice protest just over a week
Silman died of his wounds on Friday.
Since the story of
Silman – a 57-year-old Haifa resident whose debts to the National Insurance
Institute (NII) left him desperate and nearly homeless – gained attention, a
growing number of people in similar situations have threatened to duplicate his
On Sunday, 45-year-old Akiva Mapiai succeeded in setting himself on
fire in Yehud.
He is currently being treated at Sheba Medical Center in
Tel Hashomer for burns on over 90 percent of his body.
Mapiai’s case was made public, Labor chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich warned
against the act of setting oneself alight becoming an accepted way to
“[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.”
Meanwhile, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry
and the NII announced Monday that a new helpline aimed at providing emergency
assistance to those who can no longer cope with their economic situation is now
up and running.
The helpline (02-646-3333) will be operated during the
daytime and will allow callers to leave a message at night. The goal is to find
a more immediate solution for those facing housing problems or financial
distress, or caught up in impossible bureaucracy.
contributed to this report.