IDF veteran self-immolates after PTSD benefits claim denied, in life-threatening condition

Combat veteran hospitalized in life-threatening condition; his mother says she and her son were repeatedly ignored by the Defense Ministry.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A former combat soldier who fought in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge set himself on fire on Tuesday, after the Defense Ministry denied him disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bar Kelif, 33, was left seriously wounded with severe burns after he self-immolated at a friend’s house in the coastal city of Netanya, following a Defense Ministry decision to reject his application to be recognized as a disabled veteran due to PTSD.

In life-threatening condition, Kelif is currently being treated at Tel HaShomer Hospital in central Israel.

The Defense Ministry claimed that Kelif suffers from schizophrenia and therefore his mental issues are not due to his army service.

Notably, combat soldiers like Kelif undergo intense psychological screening during the draft process, raising questions around the likelihood that he had undiagnosed schizophrenia before his service.

Last week, Kelif was briefly hospitalized due to an acute psychiatric episode, but he was released after a few hours.

Speaking to Hebrew-language media, Kelif’s mother, Kochava Araba, vehemently denied that her son had any preexisting psychological issues. She said that his deteriorating mental health was solely due to his time in the military and his combat experiences.

Read  Netanyahu marks Israel's Memorial Day by donning tefillin

“He was desperate and couldn’t get help,” Araba told Walla.

“I am very angry that they didn’t listen to me, that they didn’t understand the real struggles my son experienced,” Araba continued.

“We asked the Defense Ministry for recognition [of his PTSD-related disability.] My son told me that he couldn’t bear the doors being closed in his face. This matter needs to be investigated further, because, after all, he is not in good condition.”

Araba said she was “in shock” and that she felt “abandoned” by the military and Defense Ministry, saying that “not one person” had reached out to her following her son’s self-immolation.

Addressing those institutions, Araba called upon bureaucrats not to be “indifferent to the cry of a mother who begs for help and fails to receive it. I felt that my son was neglected, and I couldn’t succeed in helping him.”

In a similar incident in 2021, combat veteran Itzik Saidian self-immolated outside of the Defense Ministry’s offices in Petah Tikva, after they denied his request to be recognized as a disabled veteran due to PTSD.

As in Kelif’s case, the Defense Ministry claimed that Saidian’s mental health struggles predated his army service. They said his PTSD stemmed from his parents’ divorce when he was 12 years old rather than from his time actively fighting in the Gaza Strip.