So Basic – A Roof Over Your Head/ Yael Havassy
Moshe Silman set himself on fire. He is not alone. He is one of hundreds of thousands of Israelis that the country leaves behind.
Read it. Read his letter. See the despair and pain that Moshe carries with him. For a year I have been active in the fight for public housing. For a year I feel that wherever I go, I meet only despair and pain. I try to understand – how can it be that in this country people can simply fall and fall. Sometimes there isn't even a bottom to hit, they just keep falling. Maybe that's why Moshe asked to take his life in this way, in this place – at least his death will create a sound of hitting the bottom. If a person dies struggling for his life and no one hears his cry – did he ever really exist?
Moshe, like many others in our country, has no place to live. For months he cried for help but did not find an answer to his pain. He cannot receive public housing– the criteria have long ignored individuals who reached the point where they have nowhere to live. For several decades, not one new apartment was built for public housing. The housing criteria are based on the small number of apartments available, regardless of the number of people in need of housing assistance. Single adults have no chance whatsoever of getting housing.
"A roof over our head". A phrase that sounds so trivial. Home, a place where our dreams begin, where we can breathe air free of the everyday troubles outside. For so many Israelis "home" is a distant dream. Not ownership, just a someplace to call home, a place you can depend on. A place where you can be quiet, hug your child in silence, a place where you can go to sleep and at least hope for a better tomorrow. So many Israelis go from house to house, from one relative to another, from a bench to the stairwell, without anyone seeing them.
Moshe turned to the public housing struggle blog several months ago. Public housing activists talked with him several times in recent months, conversations that did not have a chance to find a solution. Moshe was so far from the horrible criteria set by the Ministry of Housing that none of the activists could save him. Moshe sent out his resume tens or hundreds of times for jobs, but was rejected time and again because of his age. Newspaper headlines call Moshe a social activist. But Moshe could not even be a social activist – he had no money for bus fare to get to demonstrations. I wish that Moshe was an exception. I wish that Moshe was just someone who couldn't make it. But Moshe is not an exception, he is one of thousands or hundreds of thousands that our country burns alive.
For a year now, social protest activists meet them – the ones that the state throws overboard, those that the state leaves behind. The pain of despair and helplessness envelope the activists, feeding restrained fury. But we are not those who are supposed to deal with this pain. Our country is supposed to look into the eyes of its people who need it, reach out to them, give them strength and solutions. Instead of doing that, our country chooses to eliminate public housing, privatize its services and throw people into the streets.
The next time a window is broken, remember Moshe. Moshe, who only wanted to live with dignity. And if you cannot do so, at least listen to his attempt to die.
Yael Havassy is an activist in the struggle for public housing
First published in Maariv – July 16, 2012