Four more self-immolations in Israel

By Zoe Winograd, July 26, 2012

The horrific self-immolation earlier this month by a man protesting against living conditions has triggered a wave of copycat acts across Israel.

Last Sunday, Mr Yaakov Mapay, a 47-year-old disabled war veteran, set himself on fire at a bus stop in Yehud, near Tel Aviv.

Passers-by put out the flames, but not before wheelchair-bound Mr Mapay had suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body. Mr Mapay is currently in a serious condition at Sheba hospital in Tel Hashomer.

Dudi Gilboa, a member of an Israel disabled veterans group, told Israeli radio that Mr Mapay had been battling officials over the veteran rehabilitation processes. Mr Mapay’s brother told Ynet that he had long been frustrated by state bureaucracy and had tried to commit suicide in the past.

Mr Mapay’s self-immolation occurred only hours before the funeral of Moshe Silman, 57, who set himself on fire as part of a social justice demonstration in Tel Aviv on July 14.

Mr Silman suffered burns to 94 per cent of his body and, as a result died six days later. His self-immolation, and subsequent death, followed his own battle with the Israel National Insurance Institute and his personal frustrations over food and house prices in Israel.

Mr Silman read out a letter before setting himself alight, blaming the Israeli establishment “for taking from the poor and giving to the rich”. Hundreds of people came to Mr Silman’s funeral, which took place on Sunday at Holon cemetery.

Since Mr Silman’s action, a wave of self-immolation attempts has spread across the country. On Sunday night, a 65-year-old resident of Ofakim attempted to set himself on fire at a police station but was stopped by a policeman. On Monday morning, a security guard prevented a man in Ashdod from setting himself on fire and, later that same Monday, a man in Netivot tried to light himself at the town hall but was stopped.

Since Mr Silman’s self-immolation, over 60 people have telephoned the Israeli Ministry of Welfare and Social Services threatening suicide. Social Services have received 2000 calls in the past week, of which 90 per cent were related to housing complaints.

Last updated: 1:20pm, July 26 2012