By now you may have heard that there was a Palestinian march and at least two people were shot last night on the West Bank. You may not know why this matters so much.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened and why last night was special.

Last night was the Laylatul Qadr, the “Night of Power” or “Night of Light” for Muslims. This night, toward the end of Ramadan, marks the night when the Quran was first revealed to Mohammed.

Just as the arrival of a child is celebrated, on its birth and then every year, as a bringer of joy and fullfilment for the family, Laylatul Qadr is celebrated as a bringer of light and guidance for mankind. Unlike the birthday which is celebrated with a feast for the senses, Laylatul Qadr includes a feast for the spirit, a feast of worship and prayers.

For this night of prayer, there was a call in the West Bank for an attempt to go to the Al Aqsa Mosque to pray:

In response, according to the Jerusalem Post:

Citing anonymous threats of Arab rioting expected near Damascus Gate, National Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Thursday that hundreds of officers will be on hand near the east Jerusalem entrance Friday to ensure no incidents take place…

To that end, Rosenfeld said no Arabs under 50-years-old will be permitted to enter Damascus Gate, and undercover teams and various other elite units will blanket the area to respond immediately to any violence.

Interview from Ramallah

The audio link above is an interview by the San Francisco based Arab Talk Radio with Diane Buttu from in the midst of the demonstration. It is extraordinary reporting and Diane not only explains what’s happening but does a brilliant job of providing the context for why it’s so important. It’s really essential listening.

There has been a perception that the Palestinian people are divided and Israel has depended on the West Bank remaining relatively quiet while it pours all it’s destructive might into the war on Gaza.

Last night instead, the West Bank came out in large numbers and the message of unity and support for Gaza was very clear. By most accounts, the demonstrations were the largest since the 1980s and even greater numbers are expected after Friday prayers and in the coming days. Today, Friday, is Al-Quds Day, a day set aside to remember the people of Palestine and call for an end to their oppression and that of all oppressed peoples, so it has special significance as well. (Al-Quds events are held worldwide and you can look here to find ones in your area if you would like to participate. People of all or no faiths are welcome.)

Containing these marches will prove difficult – as 972 noted:

The West Bank march quickly spread to East Jerusalem, where police were said to be clashing with protesters in the Old City, Silwan, and other neighborhoods. Protests were also reported in Nablus and Bethlehem.

As the night ended, reports of casualties included:

Two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces late Thursday as over 10,000 marched from a Ramallah-area refugee camp toward Jerusalem in protest against Israel’s Gaza offensive, a Ma’an reporter at the scene said.

The slain Palestinians were identified as 19-year-old Mohammad al-Araj and 27-year-old Majd Sufyan, a Ma’an reporter at the scene said.

At least 108 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli fire during the march, at least 60 of them with live bullets.

Earlier, Palestinians marched from al-Amari refugee camp toward Qalandia checkpoint, a militarized crossing point between Ramallah and Jerusalem through Israel’s separation wall.

Soldiers shot live fire and rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd, in addition to tear gas.

The toll in Gaza meanwhile was reported to have reached 807 dead, after one of the bloodiest days so far. As I post this early Friday morning Central time, this report appears: