BYU scraps plan to re-launch Jerusalem Center programs

Salt Lake City Tribune/July 28, 2006
By Todd Hollingshead

Provo -- Brigham Young University students won't be headed back to the Holy Land after all.

School officials announced Friday morning that they have reversed the decision to restart student programs at the school's Center for Near Eastern Studies in Jerusalem due to the escalation of fighting in Israel.

"While it is the hope and expectation that the university will resume student programs at some point, the university will not make any decision regarding future programs until the current conflict is resolved in such a way that students can safely travel to the area and within the Holy Land," school officials said in a statement.

On June 9, administrators for the LDS Church-owned Provo school announced students would return to the Jerusalem Center for the first time since 2001.

Since that announcement, Israel has renewed fighting with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and declared war on Hezbollah militants in neighboring Lebanon.

Israeli forces recently have entered Lebanon and launched a full-scale assault. Meanwhile, Lebanese missiles have found their way into northern Israeli towns.

BYU spokesman Michael Smart said Jerusalem Center administrators were on the cusp of sending out acceptance letters to chosen students when the decision was made not to return.

"No one has been notified that they're going," Smart said. "Those who have applied are having their deposits refunded." BYU had planned to send 44 students to the center-overlooking the historic Mount of Olives-from September to December to study Near Eastern culture and language as well as Old and New Testament curriculums.

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