After six-year hiatus due to intifada sect leaders announce renewal of youth study program in J’lem, pilgrimages to country

YNet News, Israel/June 23, 2006
By Yizhak Benhorin

The Mormons are back:

Mormon leaders told Israel's Consul General in Los Angeles Ehud Danoch Thursday that they are renewing their student program in Jerusalem and the pilgrimages to Israel, this after a six-year hiatus due to the intifda.

There are 12 million Mormons around the world, five million of them in the United States.

The Mormon leader Gordon Hinckley, dubbed "The prophet," resides in Salt Lake city, Utah; millions follow his orders with no objection. In 2000, when the intifida broke out, the Mormon Church decided to stop sending students to their Jerusalem campus extension of Brigham Young University (BYU).

The travel warning issued by the US State Department totally stopped the Mormons pilgrimages and subsequently dealt a major blow to Israel's tourism industry.

During the past year Danoch met with Hinckley and other senior Mormon officials in a bid to convince them that Israel is a safe place and the travel warning has no real meaning.

"You are supporters of Israel and should show your support in actions, not only in words," the Israeli consul pleaded.

A few days ago Danoch received a message from the Mormon leadership that the sect plans to reopen the BYU extension in Jerusalem in

September and send 45 of its students from all over the world to the capital. Some leaders of the Mormon Church will join the students in the fall, and the pilgrimages will be resumed.

The Brigham Young University extension in Jerusalem was opened in 1987 after it was agreed with the Jerusalem mayor that no missionary preaching would take place and only if all students are foreigners and not local Jews or Arabs.

More good news

Hundreds of students arrived every year since then to study using subsidized tuitions, and upon returning home they became ambassadors of good will. During their stay in Israel the Mormon students participated in archeological digs and enjoyed touring holy sites. They also took trips all over Israel, and visited Egypt and Jordan.

The Mormon's curriculum in Jerusalem is very popular among the community's students, who compete for a space at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where the beautiful campus overlooks the Temple Mount.

The Mormons' announcement of resuming their activity in Israel joins another bit of good news: The Presbyterian Church in the United States decided on Wednesday to drop the two-year economic boycott it imposed on companies doing business with Israel. The Presbyterian Church has 2.3 million members, and their boycott included companies like Motorola and Caterpillar and every company with ties to construction in settlements.

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