Israel Must 'Do Everything' for Disabled Veterans, Military Chief Says After Ex-soldier Self-immolates

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The entrance to the Defense Ministry rehabilitation offices in Petah Tikva, where Saidian self-immolated, yesterday.
The entrance to the Defense Ministry rehabilitation offices in Petah Tikva, where Saidian self-immolated, yesterday.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israeli military chief Aviv Kochavi said Tuesday that the country must "do everything" to help those who "fought and risked themselves for the country," a day after emotionally disabled IDF veteran Itzik Saidian set himself on fire outside the offices of the Defense Ministry's rehabilitation clinic.

"Israel and the Defense Forces owe a great debt to those who risk their lives and souls for the defense of the country, and we must do everything to fight on their behalf," Kochavi said.  

Kochavi sent his “wishes a speedy recovery” on behalf of himself and the IDF to Saidian, a former fighter with the Golani Brigade.

“Some of our fighters and reservists bear wounds that aren’t visible, and their souls bear the scars of battle for many years," Kochavi said.

Itzik Saidian, a 26-year-old veteran of the 2014 Gaza War who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was recognized as a disabled veteran, but at a level of disability that did not allow him to get all the treatment that he needed and that made him eligible for only a small monthly allowance.

Itzik Saidian Credit: Itzik Saidian's Facebook page

Saidian's friend told Haaretz that dealing with the Defense Ministry was difficult for him, "and he said he felt humiliated during every contact with them. The Rehabilitation Department's behavior, together with a tough period, apparently brought him to the edge of despair."

On Monday, the Defense Ministry said, he poured flammable liquid on himself and self-immolated outside the entrance to a Petah Tikva branch of the ministry that handles convalescing soldiers.

Saidian is currently in critical condition at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. On Tuesday morning, a statement from the hospital said that he is currently on a respirator in a medically-induced coma in their intensive care burn ward. Prof. Yossi Haik, who runs the department, said that Saidian suffered deep and extensive burns all over his body.

About 18 months ago, Saidian was interviewed on Channel 12 News. “Most of the people my age are not where I am. Not in terms of the psychological and the economic aspects. I feel the differences,” he said.

“I lost seven of my friends in three hours after the beginning of the fighting [in the Gaza war] and continued to fight for another two and half weeks,” he added. During the war, Saidian was part of a unit traveling in an armored car that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade; seven Golani troops were killed in the incident and Hamas abducted the body of one of the fallen soldiers.

“You have half an hour to describe what you have been through in the last five years. If you want attention you pay a lawyer tens of thousands of shekels,” Saidian said in regards to the treatment he got from the Defense Ministry committees that decide his level of disability.

When he tried to obtain permission to work, in order to increase his income, he was told that any additional income would affect his disability allowance. In recent months, Saidian claimed that the treatment he received did not help him cope with his emotional problems.

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