Moshe Silman at a social protest in Haifa.
SIlman was suffering from second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body.
The 57-year-old son of Holocaust survivors, did not have an easy start. He lived alone, and according to friends, tried to get ahead in life and live in dignity. But a small debt to the National Insurance Institute grew and sent him into an economic and bureaucratic tailspin that ended in self-immolation Saturday night on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street in front of the cameras.
“Moshe was simply not willing for the State of Israel to run him over anymore,” a friend said.
Silman’s friends were not surprised to hear what he did. The decision to set himself on fire because the state would not help him overcome his economic difficulties was in character for him, they said, especially considering his despair. “There was protest in his soul,” said a friend who went to rallies with Silman in Haifa. “He waited for it to break out and was glad when it did,” the friend added.
Two years ago Silman moved from Bat Yam to Haifa. As his economic situation deteriorated he became more and more involved in the protests in Haifa. The activists he met at the protest tent on the Carmel last summer became his best friends. “He was a man of action. He said you have to be political and get elected anywhere possible,” said Yossi Baruch, a Haifa activist.
According to friends, Silman lives in a neglected two-room apartment on the edge of the poor Wadi Salib area of the city. The refrigerator is empty. The neighbors do not know him at all.
A history of court battles
Together with his mother, Sarah, Silman decided in 2008 to sue the National Insurance Institute. He and his mother claimed damages of NIS 8 million because of the seizure of his trucks that he said led to the loss of his business. But to file the suit he needed to pay a court fee, which he said he could not afford.
The court turned down his request to waive the fee and the case was never heard. The court registrar called Silman’s claim “baseless.” Silman appealed the decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, but it was turned down in 2010.
In a Facebook post last March, Silman urged his friends to organize protests against the institute: “I think that considering the upcoming appointment of a new director general of the NII, which is actually the Anti-Social National Insurance Institute, which has throughout the years caused the most cases of injustice by any governmental service to the weakest segments of society − and continues to do so daily − we should organize protests in front of NII offices,” he wrote.