“The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless,” 57-year-old Moshe Silman wrote in a letter he read to a gathered crowd over the weekend. Then, he poured gasoline over his body and set himself on fire on the streets of Tel Aviv.
Thousands gathered Saturday night in Tel Aviv to march down Kaplan Street to mark the one-year anniversary of the social protest movement. Few, however, expected to witness such a tragic sight.
Ofer Barkan, a fellow protester from Haifa, said that Silman had been involved in last year’s protests and had threatened such a drastic move before, but no one was aware he planned to set himself on fire Saturday night.
Barkan described Silman as an ordinary man who was down on his luck.
“He became a cab driver and suffered a stroke which left him unemployed," Barkan told Haaretz. “He moved from Tel Aviv to Haifa because he could not afford life in the city.”
While in Haifa, Silman remained unemployed and was reportedly denied medical care.
“They insist on releasing me from the hospital without medical treatment, they also threaten to call the police,” he wrote on his Facebook page in April.
Social Protest Leader Dafni Leef blamed the government for Silman’s desperate act.
“This was the extreme act of a man who was totally destroyed by the cruelty of the system,” Leef told the press on Saturday evening. Silman is currently in a Tel Aviv hospital with second and third degree burns over 94 percent of his body.
Calling the incident “a great and personal tragedy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Silman a complete recovery during a Likud meeting on Sunday.
“I asked the Welfare and Social Services Minister and the Housing Minister to look into the issue,” he added.