Second Israeli Dies After Self-immolation in Welfare Protest

48-year-old IDF veteran Akiva Mafa'i set himself on fire two days after Moshe Silman died in hospital following a similar act during social protest in Tel Aviv.

A second Israeli who set himself on fire in protest of his economic difficulties has died of his injuries, the Sheba Medical Center said on Wednesday.

Akiva Mafa'i, a 45-year-old wheelchair-bound war veteran, doused his body in petrol and lit it at a bus station on Route 461 close to Yehud's industrial area on July 30. Passersby put out the flames with bottles of water and a fire extinguisher.

Mafa'i was never married and had no children. Following the incident, his siblings came to the hospital and prayed for his recovery.

The family said that Mafa'i was injured at the age of 23 during army reserve training. After he was injured, Mafa'i was admitted to the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva and was unconscious for four months. His wedding, scheduled for a month after the date of his injury, was cancelled.

As a result of his injury, Mafa'i was not employed and received welfare benefits from the Defense Ministry and Israel's National Insurance Institute. Mafa'i volunteered with the Border Police and was injured in an accident in 2003 during his service. A few years later he suffered a stroke.

In recent years Mafa'i was seeking to join a rehabilitation program. His brother, Shlomo Mafa'i, said that he also suffered from depression and had tried to end his life on several occasions.

Mafa'i was the second such fatality after Moshe Silman, a debt-ridden member of a grassroots movement to lower the cost of living in Israel, self-immolated during a July 14 demonstration in Tel Aviv and died two weeks later.

Silman, 57, left a note accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government of "taking from the poor and giving to the rich". Local media later reported similar suicide bids among others suffering economic hardship

Speaking on Israeli television after his cabinet approved a controversial new package of tax increases and spending cuts on Tuesday, Netanyahu described the self-immolations as tragic but cautioned against "drawing conclusions about the overall populace," which he argued had been spared deeper fiscal crises. 

Hadar Cohen