IDF veteran dies after self-immolation, mother blames military's neglect

Bar Kalaf succumbs to injuries two days after setting himself on fire following Defense Ministry’s refusal to recognize his disability; Army claims mental health issues unrelated to military service mother pushes back

IDF veteran Bar Kalaf, 33, passed away on Thursday, two days after setting himself on fire after the Defense Ministry didn’t approve his request to grant him a disability status following his service.
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Kalaf went to the home of one of his friends in Netanya where he doused himself with flammable liquid from a bottle and set himself on fire in the shower. He was rushed to the Sheba Medical Center in critical condition.
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בר כלף
בר כלף
Bar Kalaf
(Photo: Courtesy)
According to the Defense Ministry, Kalaf served in the IDF from 2008 to 2011 and applied for disability status, but his request "was thoroughly examined and denied after he was diagnosed with a mental illness that is not post-traumatic and isn’t related to his military service."
Bar's mother Kochava Araba said her son has been functioning normally following his discharge from the military "until something triggered him." Araba criticized the Defense Ministry’s conduct, saying, "They abandoned them. I’m still shocked at what happened to us. The doctor told me he’s in a critical condition.”
She described the psychological evaluations her son was subjected to when he tried to enlist the Defense Ministry's assistance for his difficult mental state, as haphazard. "The saw him for ten minutes and then me for ten. that was all," she said.
Bar's mother said her son deserves to be buried in a military funeral but that request has thus far been denied by the military.
Bar's uncle Lior Araba said that "he is fighting for his life," and strongly criticized the Defense Ministry. "They don't treat a lot of people; they just send everyone home without treatment. Former soldiers come to us, claiming they were abandoned, they don't receive treatment and end up on the streets."
"My sister is a single mother who raised her children by herself,” he added. “Bar had wonderful times in his life; he was an amazing man who could’ve accomplished great things, but somewhere along the way, he strayed from the path.”
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כוכי ערבה, אימו של בר כלף
כוכי ערבה, אימו של בר כלף
Kochava Araba, Bar Kalaf's mother
(Photo: Shaul Golan)
“I don't know who examined him, but to my understanding, it was a psychiatrist who simply looked for a way to let him leave without looking at him properly,” he said.
Bar's friend, Gil Ben Moyal, said the two enlisted in the military together in 2008. "He was a cheerful and friendly guy, and everyone loved him. He had tremendous motivation, which is one of the reasons he didn't complain during his service, he just wanted to continue serving."
Regarding their daily activities during their military service, he said, "We’d raid homes at night to carry out arrests, see crying children and people who wanted to kill us. Some took it hard, and some didn't."
Ben Moyal criticized the Defense Ministry’s decision, stating that Bar suffered from a mental illness unrelated to his military service. "If he enlisted and served in a combat unit, he didn't have a mental illness. This isn’t something that develops in five minutes," he said.
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גיל בן מויאל
גיל בן מויאל
Gil Ben Moyal
(Photo: Yael Ciechanover)
"About three years after his release, Bar started wandering the streets,” he added. “He could barely talk about the military; he knew it would affect him. He talked very little, and you could feel that he couldn't discuss it. He couldn't stay in a closed place; I’d go with his mother to look for him, finding him sleeping on benches in the street."
The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying, “We send our condolences to the Kalaf family for Bar’s loss. His request was closely inspected by the best psychiatrists in the ministry, and no correlation was found between his mental illness, which isn’t post-traumatic, to his military service.”
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