Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
called the case of Moshe Silman, who set
himself on fire during Saturday night's social justice protest, a "great personal tragedy."
Netanyahu said during a Likud ministers meeting on Sunday that he had asked Welfare Minister Moshe Kahlon and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias to look into Silman's case.
Silman, who suffered burns on over 90% of his body, was transferred overnight to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, where doctors are fighting for his life.
Video: Israel Police
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar said Silman's act of self-immolation should "remind us all of the daily hardships – as a society and as individuals – and that we must try to help as much as possible."
Opposition head Shelly Yachimovich
said the "brutal toughening of criteria for public housing and the lack of a public safety net have brought many like Moshe to a dead end and desperation."
However, Yachimovich said, "we are all praying for him, but apart from the horror and sorrow, we must remember that suicide is a dreadful, extreme act. (Silman) must not serve as an example for anyone, young or old… and definitely must not be seen as a symbol of the social justice protest."
Protesters in Haifa (Photo: Avisag She'ar Yeshuv)
Chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen said Sunday that "the terrible tragedy that occurred last night at the Tel Aviv protest demands a thorough investigation of how events snowballed and how the authorities conducted themselves in the matter of Moshe Silman."
On his Facebook page, Shama-Hacohen wrote: "I intend to go to the National Insurance Institute, the Housing Ministry, the Courts Administration, and all the relevant entities to determine how Mr. Silman's affairs were handled. The authorities must examine themselves."
The City of Haifa
said local welfare authorities had assisted Silman, who suffered a stroke about a year and a half ago. Since then he has been living off monthly disability stipends.
According to reports, Silman owed the Tax Authority
and National Insurance Institute of Israel about NIS 15,000 (some $3,800), but procedural errors and lost court cases against the authorities caused the debt to expand. Silman owned a small delivery service, and could not meet the debt. Eventually he lost his apartment.
His sister, Bat Tzion, said, "My brother was a businessman, but he failed and they took everything away from him."
Silman's nephew, Ofer Elul, said his uncle "got into trouble with the Tax Authority and National Insurance Institute – and they left him with nothing. They took his home – everything."
Idit Lev of the Rabbis for Human Rights
organization accompanied Silman over the past year. "The State pushed him over the edge," she said. "He did not want to harm himself. He only wanted a roof over his head. They foreclosed his home, and later seized his mother's apartment as well."
Rabbi Lev said Silman was not eligible for rent support because he had previously owned an apartment. He was living at a friend's apartment, free of charge, she said.
"The lease on the apartment he was living in expires in a week, and he did not want to live on the street again. Wherever we turned – no one was willing to help," she said.
In the past, Silman, who was socially active, called on citizens to demonstrate against the National Insurance Institute and the State's treatment of Holocaust
Several dozen social activists protested Sunday afternoon outside the Housing Ministry's Haifa offices over Silman's suicide attempt. The protesters waved signs reading, "The cause – poverty" and "The poor are not transparent."
Silman had turned to the Housing Ministry to help solve his debt problems.
"The self-immolation was an act of social and political protest," one of the activists said. "It was a cry against the waning of the social protest. We must all do some sul-searching."