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Israeli Veteran Self-Immolates in Protest, Perishes

Israeli Veteran Self-Immolates in Protest, Perishes

In a tragic display of the difficulty many veterans face in Israel, a war veteran named Akiva Mafa’i set himself on fire on Sunday and finally perished on Wednesday. CNN reports that the 45-year-old war veteran, who had been confined to a wheelchair for some time, poured gasoline over his body at a bus station in Yehud, a small town. He then proceeded to light himself on fire, igniting over 70 percent of his body.

Passersby were able to put out the fire with multiple water bottles but the burns were severe and put Mafa’i in the hospital where he remained until his passing on Wednesday. CNN notes that Mafa’i had served in the Israel Defense Forces 20 years ago, placing him in a wheelchair. He also suffered a coma after he sustained injuries at the young age of 23.

This newest self-immolation represents much of the despair that veterans and those lower on the economic scale in Israel have been feeling in recent years.

Another war veteran, Moshe Silman, self-immolated in mid-July. Silman was more up front about why he decided to take his fate into his own hands. He left a note before he set himself alight during a large demonstration in Tel Aviv. The Tehran Times quotes the letter as follows:

I have no money for medicine or rent. I canít make the money after I have paid my millions in taxes. I did the army, and until age 46 I did reserve duty. I refuse to be homeless; this is why I am protesting.

Silman was part of a larger group working towards lowering the cost of living in Israel. Increases in taxes and spending cuts mimic many of the reforms going on in the European Union currently. The Tehran Times notes that 20 percent of Israel’s population lives below the poverty line.

Both Mafa’i and Silman’s tragic ends also represent the struggles many veterans face in Israel. The vast majority of Israeli citizens are required by law to serve in the military starting on their 18th birthday. On August 1, the Tal Law, which had given exemptions for ultra Orthodox Jewish students, was revoked, stirring up tensions between the Orthodox community and the government.

Protests have been rocking the streets of Tel Aviv for many months now as residents from all walks of life demand changes in government economic policies. Both Mafa’i and Silman’s protests have the potential to ignite further fury over the state of the country and the neglect of veterans who have no resources to continue making a living.

Reports have likened these self-immolation protests to the demonstration of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, which sparked a massive uprising during the Arab Spring.

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Photo Credit: 'avivi

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33 comments

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5:43AM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

Very sad

11:52AM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

To the man's family my condolences; to the rich Elites who for economic reasons of profits engineer all the nasty little wars and conflicts; we will see you at the Crossing.

9:11AM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

soldiers of war are always forgotten
unless of course their names are etched onto a monument
an edifice to the country

no country is immune to the fact
soldiers are dispensable

fight war not people

6:37AM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

Of course their taxes are high. They have to pay for all the military arms they buy from the US.

....disgusting.....

My heart goes out to those whose government has abandoned them, now that they are no longer useful as cannon fodder.

3:15AM PDT on Aug 5, 2012

Very sad that this man felt the need to end his life.

My thoughts and heart go out to his family and friends

8:45AM PDT on Aug 4, 2012

THIS IS REALLY SAD. AND THEIR INCOME GAP, AS EVERYWHERE ELSE, IS WIDENING.

8:07PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

this is not an answer. What is going on?

7:05PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

The Arab Dawn started when a Tunisian merchant set himself on fire to protest being treated poorly by an authoirty figure. Are we seeing the beginning of an Israeli Dawn?

4:39PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

Pretty much like we treat our veterans here in America....

After they put themselves in harm's way so that we can be safe and free....

Or is it to keep governments in power, and make warmongers rich?

Wake up armed forces - they use you and then abandon you! Time to vote....

3:14PM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

Very sad that this man felt the need to end his life. My thoughts and heart go out to his family and friends. Thanks for the article Sarah.

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