Moshe Silman, 57, died Friday, July 20th, from burns on over 90 percent of his body. He doused himself with fuel and lit himself on fire during the protest for a just society in Tel Aviv, less than a week before. Below is an article written by Seth Morrison, an Ameinu board member, in response to this tragedy.
Checking Facebook on Saturday evening I saw the first photos of Mr. Silman on fire and of course I was appalled. My first instinct was to think, “How could this happen in Israel?”
This is a horrible situation, but we need to remember that Israel is a real country where things go wrong. Unfortunately people fall through the cracks in any social welfare system. Look at how many homeless mentally ill we have in the US.
In fairness to Israel these things happen throughout the world and we can’t expect Israel to be Gan Eden. So why are we so upset?
We start with understandable concern for Mr. Silman. I’m sure that many Mishiberach’s have been said for him. Then we understandably think of the social welfare movement that galvanized Israel last summer. When one person falls through the cracks it is an unfortunate incident, but when about one half million Israelis come together to demand change it is a movement that deserves our respect and support.
Making things worse, news broke this week that commitments to provide new more affordable housing within the Green Line have not been met by the government. Then we learned that Israel is subsidizing more homes in the occupied territories in violation of a promise to the US government and the EU to end these subsidies.
Last year’s demonstrations were well received in Israel and we all hoped for momentum in addressing Israel’s high cost of living and the problems faced by average income families. The government set up a committee, commitments were made and then momentum was lost. This year smaller demonstrations started a few weeks ago, but there was controversy over funding and more negative stories in the press creating a concern that momentum for social change was lost.
The mood now is more somber and people are realizing how bad things can be for the seriously mentally ill without support systems. It is important to evaluate Israel fairly, as we would any other western democracy. This one incident – horrible as it is – must be investigated as an unusual case of an individual failed by his society.
As Zionists, we must also work to reinvigorate the protest movement to bring the land that we love closer to the ideals that our tradition establishes.