Moshe Silman being evacuated by Magen David Adom paramedics.
Moshe Silman being evacuated by Magen David Adom paramedics. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Letter left by the man who set himself on fire, July 14, 2012.
Letter left by Moshe Silman, who set himself on fire during a social justice protest in Tel Aviv, July 14, 2012.

Moshe Silman, a 57-year-old Haifa resident,  set himself on fire Saturday during a Tel Aviv demonstration marking the anniversary of last summer's social protests.

As thousands marched down Kaplan Street to mark a year since the start of social protests, Silman poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire.

Silman was evacuated to Ichilov Hospital shortly afterward.

"The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless,"  wrote Silman in a letter he left at the scene.

"Two Housing and Construction Ministry committees rejected me, even though I had a stroke," wrote Silman in the letter, adding that the facts could be checked with a public housing company in Haifa.

In the letter, Silman wrote that he blames the state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, "for the humiliation that weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich."

Yonatan Sahar, a protester who witnessed the incident, said that he was standing next to the man, when suddenly he set himself on fire.

"I saw him holding something burning," he said, Suddenly he poured gasoline on himself and immediately caught fire. "I didn't know what to do," the Sahar added.

According to medical officials, the man is currently in serious condition.

Dozens of protesters arrived at Ichilov Hospital after hearing about the incident. Police forces prevented their entry, while filming the protesters who held signs condemning the Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. Protesters also remained at the site where the man lit himself on fire.

Ofer Barkan, a social protest activist from Haifa, said that the man was an activist in last year’s protests. “We met him last summer,” Barkan said, “he was a completely normative person who lived in Tel Aviv but then his business went under. He became a cab driver and suffered a stroke which left him unemployed. He moved from Tel Aviv to Haifa because he could not afford life in the city.” According to Barkan, he had threatened to light himself on fire multiple times. “We felt that he was close to doing it, but we didn’t know,” he added.

Activists are planning to march from Silman’s home to the Haifa municipality tomorrow.

Earlier on Saturday, thousands of Israelis gathered in several cities throughout the country to mark one year since the start of the social protests.

Thousands protested in Tel Aviv, while hundreds took to the streets in Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Jerusalem, and Afula.

Daphni Leef, the woman who launched the social protest, told Haaretz on Saturday that one year later, the activists' message hasn't changed.

"We want a fair society," she said. "Today we are also celebrating. Suddenly, when people take to the streets they understand that they have power and that they are right."

Read this article in Hebrew