The self-immolation of an Israeli man at a protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night sent immediate shockwaves across the country.
Moshe Silman, who doused himself with gasoline during a protest organized by the J14 social justice movement -- but survives at this writing -- may have provided a turning point for the yearlong campaign against the high cost of living in Israel.
The State of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless, the 46-year-old Silman said in a letter left at the scene and read out loud by protestors as he was rushed to a hospital (full text of the letter below).
Silman, who was cast into poverty after his failure to repay a small loan to the government caused his small business collapse, epitomizes Israeli's fears of fear of falling into poverty, hunger and living in the street, according to Daphni Leef, one of the leaders of the social justice movement.
Silman suffered third-degree burns over 80 to 90 percent of his body and is in serious condition, but doctors expect him to recover. He was transferred to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer on Sunday.
Many, including a number of Arab media outlets, have compared Silman to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself on fire in December 2010 and became the catalyst for the Arab Spring revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East. Like Silman, Bouazizi felt disenfranchised by a state apparatus that challenged his liberty and his livelihood -- in his case repeated police harassment and the confiscation of his produce cart.
Will Bouazizi's Israeli equivalent inspire the government to do some soul-searching? Will he inspire some kind of rehabilitation for the system that pushed him to this terrible act? asked the Haaretz newspaper's Or Kasti on Sunday.
Former opposition leader Tzipi Livni hopes Silman's desperate act will lead to an immediate change in the system, but told the Jerusalem Post that she hopes others won't follow his example. Likewise, opposition Labor party leader Shelly Yechimovich said that Silman certainly should not be seen as the symbol of the social protest, but did add that tough standards to receive public housing and the lack of a social security network brought many, like Moshe Silman, to despair and a dead end.
Additionally, Leef told reporters that Silman's act was an extreme act of a person broken by the cruelty of the system, but not a tactic that should be embraced by the J14 movement.
Regardless, Silman's act may already be affecting the system. Israeli parliamentarian Carmel Shama-HaCohen has ordered an in-depth investigation in to Silman's case, and said he will hold talks with the National Insurance Institute, the Housing and Construction Ministry and all other government offices that denied Silman aid.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: We are speaking of a great personal tragedy. I wish Moshe a full recovery.
President Shimon Peres also said he hopes Silman will make a full recovery.
The State of Israel has stolen from me and robbed me, left me with nothing, and the Tel Aviv District Court blocked me from getting justice.
The registrar at the Tel Aviv District court, broke the law, disrupted legal proceedings, out of condescension.
It won't even assist me with my rental fees. Two committees from the Ministry of Housing have rejected me, despite the fact that I have undergone a stroke and was granted 100 percent work disability.
Ask the manager of [state-owned housing company] Amidar, in Hafia, on Hanevi'im Street.
I blame the State of Israel
I blame Bibi Netanyahu and [Minister of Finance] Yuval Steinitz - both scum - for the humiliation that disenfranchised citizens go through day in and day out, that take from the poor and give to the rich, and to public servants
Those that serve the State of Israel
The National Health Insurance, especially the manager of their operations, and the manager of their claims department, on Lincoln Street in Tel Aviv, who illegally seized my work equipment for my truck.
The Haifa National Insurance Institute branch, who abused me for a year until I was granted disability
That I pay NIS 2300 per month in Health Insurance taxes and even more for my medicine.
I have no money for medicine or rent. I can't make the money after I have paid my millions in taxes I did the army, and until age 46 I did reserve duty.
I refuse to be homeless, this is why I am protesting against all the injustices done to me by the State, me and others like me...