15 Minutes of Flame

An act of desperation should awaken our leaders to burning problems in our society.

No one had ever heard of Moshe Silman before his act of self immolation at a social justice protest on Saturday night. Now, as Silman fights for his life with critical burns over 94% of his body, he is being copied by others who similarly feel they have been forgotten by Israel’s welfare institutions.

The 2012 Summer of Protest has taken yet another very upsetting turn, further distancing itself from the mass protests and colorful tent encampments that gained widespread appeal last year. Violent confrontations with police forces, no matter who was responsible for them, certainly changed how the public regards the demonstrators and their goals. The difficulties in implementing social changes suggested by the Trachtenberg committee and the endless negotiations on the subject of compulsory service for Arabs and ultra-Orthodox which regressed into political quagmire have quashed hopes that progress will soon be made on resolving the many internal problems facing Israel.

Sure, everyone wants social justice

The problem I had last year was the fact that although I identified with the goals of the protestors, I didn’t know exactly what those goals were. Sure, everyone wants social justice, and yes, the cost of living for the average Israeli is too high, but what specifically should be done to put us all on a level playing field of life? There doesn’t appear to be a cure-all remedy for Israel’s social problems. Despite staging the biggest rallies ever held in Israel, the grass roots movement launched last summer seemed to stop moving.

Until this summer, when things became personal and moved in dangerous directions.

Daphni Leef, one of the first young activists to set up a tent on Rothschild Boulevard last year, was injured in June in a brutal confrontation with the police when they repelled efforts to restablish the encampment.

And now Moshe Silman, and other copycat attempts at self-immolation.

These are acts of desperation. People have lost all hope in the system and see that nothing has changed as a result of their marching quietly in the streets.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Our elected leaders must quickly wake up to the fact that something is burning in our country, enough to cause citizens to take desperate measures. Action must be taken to ease the injustices in our society before they rage into an inferno that cannot be contained.

About the Author
Ellis Shuman made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘The Burgas Affair’ – a crime thriller set in Israel and Bulgaria; ‘Valley of Thracians’ - a suspense novel set in Bulgaria; and 'The Virtual Kibbutz' - a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and writing.