A Man Lit Himself on Fire Today

Laying in bed, cocooning myself from the cold, I overhear my roommates talking from behind my closed doors. 

Did you hear about the man in the dawwar [city center]?

What? No... What happened?

I am no stranger to the automatic dread in her voice. I sit up in bed. 

He lit himself on fire, right there in the middle of everything.


- Silence -

Why...? What? Why?

Nothing is for sure but, they say he was protesting the economic strangulation that the occupation brings.

- Silence -



Immediately, as if it is second nature, I open my laptop and then twitter. I scan my homepage for any mention of the man on fire. Finding nothing, I search for my city, Nablus, in hopes that someone has tweeted about what happened. Nothing. Normally, I can rely on Twitter as a source of information. I realized many months ago that if I want information on anything occurring here, looking at CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC or any other news source is futile. I have learned that not only is it a rarity that the West Bank is featured on these news sources but that when it occasionally is, the information is not only published so delayed that it is rendered worthless but that it is grossly inaccurate, and the people are almost always villain-ized.

Unsatisfied, I shut my computer, zip up my sleeping bag and try to sleep. Thoughts swim through my mind so freely it's like they belong there. A man lit himself on fire today. I think about the peaceful glow of the old city at night, of the smiling shop keepers, cheerful children and beautiful muezzin echoing off the yellow walls. A man lit himself on fire today.

My cheeks burn red. A man lit himself on fire today. I think of the children in my third grade class. I think of their faces, hearing their parents talk about this man. I think of their little chests filling with a feeling they do not yet have a name for as their parents begin to talk about why someone would do that. I think about the news stations I know won’t report on this. I think about devastation, starvation, restriction of movement and the humiliation the everyday silence of the world to these atrocities brings.

A man lit himself on fire today. I try to shift my mind to the world outside of here I remember exists. I shift to my nephew, nearly two years old, completely enthralled by trains. I think of his little chest, of his cheeks, his heart and his life. I struggle to remember the normalcy that is home. I can not close my eyes. I will not close my eyes because behind my tired eyelids is the image of a man on fire, attempting to reclaim his life through his own death. Attempting, in vain, to make the world listen, to open the eyes of someone, anyone, who can do something to change his reality. I close my eyes and see my nephew adorned in a kufiya, smiling to me with the bold innocence granted to him simply by his birthplace. His smile mixes with the roar of the F-16s overhead and the pop of automatic weapons outside, creating the familiar song that lulls me to sleep.