The second social protester to set himself on fire in protest of Israel’s welfare system has died of his injuries. Akiba Mafi, a wheelchair bound Israeli war veteran, suffered burns over 80 percent of his body after following the actions of Moshe Silman. Mafi lit himself on fire at a bus station in a suburb of Tel Aviv, sparking an outcry by veterans claiming the government is refusing to respond to their needs.
“The bodies that are supposed to support him, i.e. the Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute, failed,” said David Gilboa of the Disabled IDF Veterans Association. “This is exactly what we have been protesting – the disregard and the abhorrent treatment of disabled IDF veterans, people who have given life and limb for this country.”
One Lebanese war vet, Eyal Eliyahu, expressed his personal frustration.
“Thirty years ago I came to the Defense Ministry as a kid. Since then, I've never gone back,” said Eliyahu. “[They say]'you'll get what you deserve,' but you go through abuse. There's no respect – no one cares," he said.
In response to Mafi’s self-immolation and protests by disabled veterans, Defense Ministry chair Udi Shani promised that changes would be made to improve the lives of the veterans.
"I have issued instructions to move all the care to the new unit immediately. They will receive different treatment," Shani said in a meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee.
Yet despite promised changes as a result of Mafi’s suicide-by-fire, Gilboa is encouraging other disabled veterans not to follow in Mafi’s path.
“I'm afraid over 50,000 IDF veterans share his frustration,” he said. “But I urge all of them – do not follow this desperate act. Nothing is worth your life.”