Minister Bennett blames Moshe Silman’s friends and family for not helping enough, one of his friends responds.
PRESS RELEASE | December 23, 2013
Rabbi Idit Lev, Social Justice Department Director at Rabbis for Human Rights, who greatly assisted Moshe Silman z”l, who self-immolated in July 2012 in an act of protest against Israel’s social welfare system’s failure to assist him, responds in a public letter to Economy Minister Naftali Bennett’s assertion that in the case of Moshe Silman there was a lack of involvement and responsibility of friends and family. This is part of the response to Bennett’s remarks, which were quoted in Globes [link in Hebrew] on December 19, 2013 and widely circulated on Facebook [link in Hebrew].
IMAGE: Moshe Silman z”l’s funeral, Holon cemetery, July 22, 2012. Photo: Oren Ziv, ActiveStills
Open letter to Minister Bennett
Minister Bennett, you blamed Moshe Silman z”l’s friends and relatives, here is our response:
Dear Minister Naftali Bennett,
You were quoted in an article in Globes as saying, “When Moshe Silman set himself on fire in the social protests, I kept asking myself, where were his neighbors, where was his family? If someone thinks that this country can survive one minute without mutual assistance – the whole business will collapse.”
But Honorable Minister, the correct question is where was the state? Because in the case of Moshe the fact is that mutual assistance was very much present, and the state was not, and without the state, the involvement of family, neighbors and friends was not enough!
I wonder if you read the extensive coverage of Moshe’s story in the media and on the internet. Because in your remarks, unfortunately, there was unfamiliarity with the situation and an insult to the many who supported Silman z”l and were involved in his life. Because you are an Israeli government minister, you have an obligation to check facts before acting or speaking. And it is even more unfortunate that you do not remember that “One who embarrasses another in public, it is as if that person shed blood” (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Mezia 58b).
I, Rabbi Idit Lev, work at Rabbis for Human Rights and am active in the social protest movement in Haifa. Through this work I met Moshe, and was privileged to accompany him in the final year of his life. During this year, his friends and family attempted to assist him as much as they could. One friend gave him an apartment to live in for free for a year, his family guided him and assisted him as much as they could. His friends in the protest leadership in Haifa did their best, and at Rabbis for Human Rights we fought together with him against the National Insurance Institute for him to receive the disability benefits that he deserved (a battle that we won!) and for him to receive rental assistance from the government through Amidar (in this battle, we lost). Moshe met the criteria published by the government, but the government refused to give him what he deserved. Even if Moshe had received the rental assistance, his family would still have had to help him pay the remainder of the rent, pay some of his bills and help him buy food and medication. This is because our country’s social safety net simply is not enough for basic subsistence, not to mention subsistence in dignity.
The State of Israel and its representatives, the large community which is supposed to be responsible for ensuring that mutual assistance is the policy of the Jewish state, told Moshe that if he became homeless and lived on the street, they would then begin to help him. Moshe refused to live on the street. Would you have agreed to live on the street for a month in order to receive assistance from the state?
The Silman family did all it could. And it seems that you did not check the facts before blaming them in front of the entire country. You must apologize to them!
I would be happy to meet with you and show you how without mutual assistance, none of the people I know who live in poverty (and there are many) would still be alive, because the State of Israel does not think that part of its role is to take care of people living in poverty and Israel is abandoning them every single day. We have mutual assistance. The question is if we have a government aware of the Biblical commandment, “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:35). I have not encountered this government; I still hope that I do one day.
A country which destroys its citizens: The story of Moshe Silman, Ori Ben Dov, 16 July 2012.
The writing was on the wall, 17 July 2012.
Much water cannot put it out, Almog Behar, 30 July 2012
Farewell, Moshe Silman: Israel cares more for the dead than the living, Rabbi Kobi Weiss, 24 July 2012.
You are the ones who should apologize, Rabbi Idit Lev and Dror Dvir, 24 July 2012.
Being poor in Israel, Rabbi Idit Lev, 31 July 2012.