We’ve seen reports of occupy movements from all over the world. However, Israel hasn’t had much attention on the topic. Usually, if we hear of protests in the country, our minds immediately form opinions on the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But right now it appears that they are soon to have another struggle on their hands.
Moshe Silman is a simple man. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t want to become homeless either. According to the L.A. Times, that was his reasoning behind setting himself on fire on July 15.
He couldn’t pay back his debt, and in the end felt helpless. Now, he lives with third-degree burns over 80 percent of his body.
What he did has been questioned by many. While some view his immolation as an act of social protest, others view it as an attempted suicide. In fact, the Labor Party leader warned activists that his immolation should not be seen as social protest.
However, he did leave a note for other demonstrators to read. “I shall not become homeless,” he wrote, “taking from the poor, and giving to the rich.” The protestors read his letter aloud after Silman was taken to the hospital.
But the truth is that Silman’s problems have been relevant and for a number of years. According to the New York Times, a 54-year-old woman set herself on fire as well in 2005. The woman was left with life-threatening burns that covered 60 percent of her body.
The woman (whose name was not revealed) and Silman share a common social problem within Israel. While the woman was in fact protesting the disengagement plan on the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Silman was living with the fear of falling into poverty. While these struggles are both unique in their own way, they do have similarities to some degree. One main element is the struggle for adequate and affordable housing.
According to Occupied Palestine, the disengagement plan rendered many Palestinians homeless. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs hoped that this plan would bring peace to the region, while advancing and improving the system, but since then, many more protests have occurred.
Now, in Israel, protesters are calling for more affordable housing. Daphni Leef, who leads the affordable housing movement called Silman’s immolation “an extreme act of a person broken by the cruelty of the system.” She called these people “victims of the government’s policy.”
While the government is actively trying to address some of these concerns, the people aren’t feeling the economic shifts soon enough. Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanahu has promised that there will be changes to taxation and economic priorities. However, protests are still being planned to challenge capitalism, and tent cities are popping up with protesters. Change for the welfare system and affordable housing are not coming soon enough for the people of Israel. Their voices will be heard, with the memory of two people who sacrificed themselves in the name of social justice.