Israel’s premier and president on Sunday offered a protester who set himself alight their wishes for a speedy recovery, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the incident a “personal tragedy.”
Moshe Silman, who set himself ablaze at a social justice demonstration in the city of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, was said Sunday to be fighting for his life after suffering extensive burns.
“I wish Moshe Silman a full recovery, this is a huge personal tragedy,” Netanyahu said in remarks published on his Facebook page.
In a letter he read out before setting himself on fire, Silman blamed Netanyahu and the Israeli establishment for “stealing” from him, saying they had “left him with nothing.” Netanyahu’s comments on Sunday made no reference to the accusations.
“I accuse the state of Israel, Netanyahu and (Finance Minister) Yuval Steinitz, the bastards, for the humiliation that the weakened citizens of Israel endure on a daily basis,” the letter said.
“They take from the poor to give to the rich.”
Local media reported that Silman, 58, had been living for the past year in the northern city Haifa and was the owner of a trucking business that was sold off due to debts.
According to his letter, he recently suffered a stroke that left him incapable of working, but housing ministry committees did not find him eligible for public housing benefits.
President Shimon Peres said that “along with all the people of Israel, I am praying for Moshe Silman’s recovery.”
In a statement Sunday morning Peres noted that Silman’s condition was “extremely serious.” Silman was being treated in the burns unit at Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv.
The Saturday night demonstrations, which drew approximately 8,000 people in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, were to mark the first anniversary of mass protests against the spiralling cost of living.
The protest movement began last summer, with activists seeking reforms that would make food, housing and education more affordable.
But many feel that government promises to enact economic reforms have not been kept.