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Israeli protester dies of self-immolation

July 21, 2012 at 12:06 PM   |   Comments

JERUSALEM, July 21 (UPI) -- An Israeli man has died of burns suffered when he set himself on fire in protest of the high cost of living in Israel.

Moshe Silman, 57, of Haifa, doused himself with gasoline and ignited it July 14, burning 94 percent of his body. He died Friday afternoon at a hospital in Israel's Tel HaShomer District, The Guardian reported.

"There was protest in his soul," an unidentified friend told the British newspaper. "He waited for it to break out and was glad when it did."

Silman was the son of Holocaust survivors, a life-long bachelor with no children who lived for years in Tel Aviv. He had earned a meager living doing odd jobs before starting a messenger service in 2000 that eventually failed, leading him to move to Haifa where it is less expensive to live.

Despite receiving government aid for disabilities resulting from a stroke, his bills mounted and he became involved in the protest movement opposing the high cost of living, the newspaper said.

Silman wrote in a suicide note that he blamed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for his predicament.

"I refuse to be homeless, this is why I am protesting," he wrote. "Against all the injustices done to me by the state, me and others like me.

His public self-immolation triggered a solidarity protest by thousands of people Sunday.

"I really hope that no one else will follow this path, but at the end of the day he was sick of the situation and he had no choice," Rabbi Idit Lev, manager of social justice projects at Rabbis for Human Rights, told The Jerusalem Post.

"He felt that no one in the state of Israel was listening to him. I don't know how these welfare policies are decided, who gets help and who does not, but at the end of the day, no one would help Moshe."

Batela Shahar of Jerusalem, a widowed mother of five who said she has lived on public assistance for 30 years, said "Silman's story is something that could happen to any of us."

"While I am a mother and can't let myself go like Silman did, I can totally understand how it came to that," she said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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