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Protesters try to extinguish flames from a protester after he set himself on fire during a demonstration calling for social justice in Tel Aviv July 14, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
In Tel Aviv, a protester spilled inflammable substances and set himself on fire after reading out a letter saying "the State of Israel has robbed me, left me with nothing."
The man suffered from second and third degree burn over 80 percent of his body, and has been hospitalized in intensive care, according to Zaki Heller, spokesman for Magen David Adom (Israel's emergency rescue service).
The protest in Tel Aviv was organized by some prominent activists, among them is Dafni Leef, who erected the first tent in the city's main avenue on July 14 last year to protest against high cost of living and social injustice in Israel, echoed by up to one million Israelis.
"I just knew I couldn't take it anymore. I was kicked out of my apartment and couldn't pay the rent," Leef told Xinhua, adding that "I realized that it's not just me, everybody around me were suffering. And suddenly everything started to snowball," she said.
"I'm a father of a three-year-old boy and it's a nightmare trying to get through the months," Avi Harel, 33, from Tel Aviv said. "My wife and I both work but our salaries are too low. Prices of food, electricity and gas are killing us. There's no real free education system here. Affording an apartment is a dream and we need our parents to help us get by. Sometimes I feel like I 'm a crushed ant."
The protesters held slogans calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Others read "the people demand a welfare state," "We've changed -- now it's time for the government to change," and "There's no peace, no social justice -- time to take out the government."
"People are still collapsing financially," Leef said, "We are all suffering from heavy financial burden and sharing mutual experience of trying to survive, but that's not how it should be. It's time for the country to take care of us but not the tycoons."
In another protest in Tel Aviv, demonstrators marched along the promenade, holding signs reading "Israel is too expensive," "It's time for a rent revolution" and "the people demand civil rights."
Those participating in the second protest are fallouts from the main movement. They criticized some of its leaders for possessing personal political aspirations, resenting some activists' insistence on the protest's political nature.
However, the organizer of the promenade walk, Yair Olmert, said that "The divide is over relevant issues, it's nothing personal," adding that "We believe in a protest which is not affiliated with political interests."
The official social justice movement website, J-14, published a statement on Saturday prior to the protests, saying that "the two events don't represent clashing views. The two organizing teams protested together in the past and genuine attempts were made in unifying the vents, but apparently there were factors sabotaging the dialogue between them."
"Last summer was successful because we stood together. People with different backgrounds, political views -- everybody came. It was 'the people's protest.' But then came the stage when we had to go ahead and decide about our next step, and own to the fact that this protest, whatever you want to call it, is political and there 's nothing to be done about it," said Or Eliezer, a 32-year-old activist from Tel Aviv.
"It all blew up in a protest a few months ago, where people carried signs affiliated with political parties. There were people who went through the roof over it. It's a shame. It weakens us and our mutual interest. But I cannot go on lying to myself saying this is not political. This is the most political thing in the world. We are fighting to change government policy, what is it if not political?" Eliezer said.