Brother of Veteran Who Set Himself Alight: IDF Doesn't Love You When You're Wounded

Brother of the 45-year-old disabled veteran who self-immolated at Yehud bus stop tells Haaretz: 'The army loves you three feet under, but doesn't love you when you're wounded.'

The brother of Akiva Mafa'i, the 45-year-old disabled IDF veteran who set himself on fire on Sunday, told Haaretz he was not surprised by the act, and that his brother's situation had deteriorated since he had a serious stroke two years ago.

Mafa'i reportedly brought a canister of gasoline to a bus stop in Yehud and set himself alight, when passers-by saw what was happening and put out the fire. The man sustained burns over 80 percent of his body. Rescue services arrived at the scene, and evacuated the man to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.

"The debts aren't the crux of the matter," he said, "but rather the attitude of the Defense Ministry and welfare authorities. He became desperate. Today, unfortunately, he emulated Moshe Silman's act. He is an IDF veteran, and the army loves you three feet under, but doesn't love you when you're wounded. Until you receive what you're due, if at all, it takes time, and that's why people do extreme things."

His brother told Haaretz that the veteran had already attempted suicide in the past, and threatened on various occasions to do try again. Last weekend he told his sister: "Did you see what happened to Silman? That's what's going to happen to me too." His brother added that "these were his exact words. We couldn't believe it."

According to his brother, the disabled veteran left home at 5 A.M., as he often does, and waited for the taxi that takes him to a disabled veterans' treatment clinic.

"When I heard on the radio that it happened in Yehud, I immediately understood it was him. I'm not surprised, I feel what all disabled veterans feel. We grew up in a home that contributes to the state, and continues to contribute, we gave our life to the state, and in the end they throw you out. The IDF disabled veterans feel like a burden on society, that's our frustration, when you're called to reserve duty, you leave everything and go to serve the state with love, and in the end when something happens to you, you're left on your own."

The veteran was wounded during reserve duty some twenty years ago, a month before he was about to get married, and according to his brother spent several months in the hospital and six months of rehabilitation. Ever since he could not work and survived on pensions.

David Gilboa, of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization arrived at the hospital, and said that the organization officials talked to the veteran on Saturday night, during a demonstration in front of the offices of the National Insurance Institute. One of the officials said that "the man was in a seriously difficult mental state and has many debts. He has been talking for sometime about the possibility of harming himself. He lives on his own, it's difficult and he just doesn't know how to handle all the problems. He felt that he gave the state everything he could, and was then neglected."

Gilboa added that "right now there are 50,000 disabled veterans saying that it's exactly how they feel. I really fear for them, and I call on those thinking to carry out a similar act, not to dare to do it. We gave our lives to the state of Israel, we were wounded, but we shouldn't die because of the circumstances. The authorities that should have taken care of him, the Defense Ministry and NII, didn't take care of him.

Gilboa said that IDF disabled veterans have been staging demonstrations over the past three months against the state's attitude: "We've been demonstrating about these very issues. There's no theory of rehabilitation, the attitude is shocking, people who gave their bodies and souls aren't treated properly. We demand that the state take care of these people as it should. It is unconceivable that as commanders we sent these people to battle, but today we ignore and neglect them."

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Tomer Appelbaum