Hundreds of disabled IDF veterans and their families gathered outside the Knesset and blocked roads in Jerusalem Wednesday, in protest of the state's failed treatment of wounded veterans.
The issue has been brought into the spotlight after Itzik Saidyan, a 26-year-old former soldier who served in the 2014 Gaza war and suffered from severe PTSD, lit himself on fire due to the state's failure to increase his disability ranking.
Among their demands, the protesters are demanding the state approves the “One Soul” plan, which is currently on hold due to budgetary reasons and whose aim is to reform and improve the treatment of disabled veterans.
In response to the protest, Finance Minister Israel Katz was meeting Wednesday with the vice chairman of The Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization, as well as with other officials from the NGO.
Ido Gal Razon, a disabled IDF vet, said at the demonstration: "Itzik Saidyan should not have burned himself. The Israeli government, the Defense Ministry and its Rehabilitation Division are the ones who made him do it.
“We are here to demonstrate, without mercy. We came to make a fuss. Today we will see the that the reforms are passed, we don’t care where the budget comes from,” added Razon.
M., 22, served in the Kfir Brigade and was wounded by gunfire during a training exercise. "I came to chant and identify with the veterans and the wounded,” he said.
"I myself am at the beginning of a rehabilitation process and I do not want to experience what others say they went through,” M. added.
“In my opinion, the Rehabilitation Division is trying to do its job faithfully, but there are those who take advantage of this and try to deceive them.”
Leah, Itzik Saidyan’s sister, said she feels her brother was “burned all over again,” when she heard the One Soul reform was stuck in limbo due to budgets.
“I get inquiries from PTSD sufferers that include threats. They say they want to harm themselves. I'm scared to death. We try to stop them, to talk to them,” Leah siad.
“Itzik’s protest was not about money nor for disability percentages, but receiving rehabilitation. We think it is right and proper that every fighter who was wounded or injured, physically or mentally, will receive the best treatment,” she added.
The interim head of the Rehabilitation Department, Itamar Graf, claimed previously that the number of open requests for disabled status stands at 10,700. "Despite the dedicated workers - the service provided to disabled IDF veterans is not good,” said Graf.
“These are things we know we need to fix right away. We need to make substantial reforms here. The IDF is closely linked to bereaved families, widows and orphans. We must act with a similar attitude towards [our wounded],” added Graf, who said he expects reforms on the matter to be implemented within “two to three months.”