Disabled IDF veteran Itzik Saidian on Sunday made his first public appearance since he set himself on fire in front of the Defense Ministry's Rehabilitation Division offices in Petah Tikva in April of last year.
Saidian spoke at an annual event hosted by Sheba Medical Center, where he has been hospitalized in the hospital's burn unit since the self-immolation.
The disabled veteran began his speech by thanking God, his family and the hospital staff for helping in his recovery. Saidian has set a goal for himself, he says, to be the voice of all those physically or mentally wounded by their service to the IDF.
"I have set an important mission to myself: Continue to make the voices of disabled IDF veterans be heard"Disabled IDF veteran Itzik Saidian
Also at the event were President Isaac Herzog and first lady Michal Herzog. The Israeli president spoke at the event and addressed Saidian's appearance.
"We are delighted to see the results of Sheba's excellent work, as we have been following Saidian's recovery for some time," Herzog said.
The recovery, Herzog noted, is evidence of two things: "First, Itzik and the Saidian family's unlimited strength. Secondly, the high levels of professionalism, determination and capabilities of Sheba's staff."
After Saidian's and the president's words, a film showcasing Saidian's road to rehabilitation was shown to the audience at the event.
Saidian was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after seeing combat action during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.
He was put into a medically induced coma in critical condition for the first five months after the incident. In September 2021, he awoke after the medical team lowered his dose of medication.
In January, Saidian was recorded speaking for the first time since the incident. In honor of Doctors Appreciation Day, he thanked his doctors and the rest of his medical staff for his recovery.
The "One Soul" reform
Saidian's self-immolation, done in protest of the defense establishment's treatment of disabled veterans, sparked outrage toward the Defense Ministry and protests across the country.
Not long after the incident, Defense Minister Benny Gantz's "One Soul" reform was approved, with a series of steps taken during the past year toward its implementing.
The latest step was taken on the same day as Saidian's first public appearance. Earlier on Sunday, reforms set to make aid more accessible to veterans were passed by the Knesset.
The bill, sponsored by the defense minister along with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, will see veterans receive more funding for medical vehicles and specialized apartments, among other necessities.