Disabled IDF veteran attempts to self-immolate in Jerusalem

The IDF veteran was stopped by police and firefighting forces while soaked in gasoline.

Israeli veterans and disabled IDF soldiers protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, for better financial and medical aid and support,  May 5, 2021.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Israeli veterans and disabled IDF soldiers protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, for better financial and medical aid and support, May 5, 2021.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

A disabled IDF veteran was stopped from self-immolating in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israeli media reported.

The man poured gasoline over himself and threatened to set himself on fire before being stopped by Israel Fire and Rescue and police forces at the scene, where they identified him as a disabled veteran.

He was taken by Magen David Adom for treatment.

The inadequate medical and mental care of disabled military vets by the Defense Ministry has become a point of discussion and protest since Itzik Saidian set himself on fire in front of the Defense Ministry’s Rehabilitation Division offices in Petah Tikva in April of last year. 

The Rehabilitation Division has also been criticized for the complicated process veterans must complete to be recognized as disabled due to their service, a process that can take years. Saidian, who was in a medically-induced coma for the first five months of his hospitalization following the incident, woke up in September 2021 and began speaking again in January.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tours IDF's Northern Command in April 2021. (credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)Defense Minister Benny Gantz tours IDF's Northern Command in April 2021. (credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)

The veteran's self-immolation ignited a wave of protests by IDF veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to by launching the One Soul reforms.

As part of the reforms led by Gantz, bills and amendments have been signed to increase eligibility for compensation, a 24/7 hotline has been established for those suffering PTSD and crisis houses have been developed for those suffering severe mental breakdowns, as well as other administrative reforms.

However, disabled IDF veterans are not satisfied with the overhaul to the process to improve medical care available to them, a March State Comptroller's report stated.  Veterans noted indifference, disrespect, contempt, insensitivity and impatience by doctors when they were seen, with an audit revealing that 73% were still dissatisfied with the services they received, saying they experienced humiliation, lack of trust, and lack of care by those providing services.

In December 2021, veteran Itzik Chen, who served as a paratrooper in Lebanon and Nablus, committed suicide. Chen was recognized by the ministry as a disabled veteran but had been fighting for additional recognition of mental illnesses stemming from his service. The Defense Ministry denied Chen’s suicide is related to the PTSD he developed during his military service.

That same month, another veteran who was recognized as physically disabled in 1994 and had filed a request that month to be recognized as disabled due to PTSD tried to commit suicide outside the rehabilitation division Tel Aviv offices. 

Michael Starr contributed to this report.