Moshe Silman taking part in a rally organized by the Israeli truck drivers’ union earlier this year.
Moshe Silman taking part in a rally organized by the Israeli truck drivers’ union earlier this year, before his suicide at a Tel Aviv protest. Photo by Ariel Milman
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Moshe Silman, the Haifa man who set himself on fire a week ago as a form of social protest, died Friday, but his family says people in distress should not emulate him.

Silman's funeral will take place Sunday at 5 P.M. at the Holon cemetery, where his parents are buried. He had been in a coma since he was hospitalized.

"Life is sacred to Judaism and his family. We beg everyone in distress and difficult situations not to choose Moshe's path," the family said in a statement.

"His action was severe and is unacceptable to his family. Moshe's action was an effort to express his pain and distress, which weren't sufficiently addressed [by the authorities]. We call on the government to heed this sad and shocking incident and act to find adequate solutions for the distress of Israelis in need."

Silman's sister, Bat Zion Elul, who will host the traditional seven days of mourning at her home in Rishon Letzion, said that "if he commited such an act, it means he didn't want to live. He sacrificed himself for everyone else in his class - those who have nothing."

On Friday morning, social activists and Silman's close friends were called to the hospital to bid him goodbye. Many of the activists did not know him personally.

Oshrat Kaplan first saw Silman when he set himself ablaze in front of her. After that, Kaplan was always on hand to assist Silman's family. And for the past week, Facebook has been swarmed with posts by people who witnessed the desperate act.

"I couldn't stop staring at him; I had no idea if he was dead or alive," Shay Givon wrote. "He didn't shout or scream, he didn't utter a word, he just lay smiling on the street, his skin in various shades of colors. An instance of rare cooperation between the demonstrators and the police put out the fire, when a cloth smothered the flames."

The Haifa activists, many who were his close friends, found his action hard to take, despite his warnings that he would harm himself due to his despair over his finances and a lack of sympathy from the authorities. Many of them blamed themselves.

Since his action, many of the activists have met for group talks with psychologists. Some of them, including several homeless people who met Silman at a Haifa protest encampment, portrayed him as a hero, one who preferred action, even at the risk of being brusque with fellow protesters.