Overlooking the Mount of Olives, the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies is described as “Brigham Young University’s home base for study in the Holy Land.” As violence escalates in Israel, the Center has posted regular security updates.
On Saturday, Hamas militants launched a coordinated surprise attack on Israel, but the fighting remained far from Jerusalem.
All students at the BYU Jerusalem Center have been reported as safe and accounted for following the Hamas militant group’s attack on southern Israel, on Saturday morning, Oct. 7, according to university statements.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said: “All 94 students at the BYU Jerusalem Center are safe and doing well. They are currently at the center and will remain there for the time being, as we continue to monitor this situation. If needed, contingency plans are in place.”
Students and others were at the Center all of Monday and have been asked to remain at the Center on Tuesday. Students were in classes much of Monday and will be in classes much of each day this week. Following classes, there are some student-organized activities and study time.”
The surprise missile attack was not focused on Jerusalem, according to the BYU Jerusalem Center’s security updates webpage. “Even if missiles are fired toward Jerusalem, the militants would be targeting government buildings in West Jerusalem. East Jerusalem, where the Center is located, has never been targeted,” a security update read.
This proved accurate on Monday as rocket attacks aimed toward greater Jerusalem triggered sirens. The Monday, Oct. 9, morning update stated: “Everyone at the center, including students, moved to the center’s shelters for the short duration of the attack. … The rockets were either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or fell harmlessly in rural areas between Gaza and Jerusalem.”
So far, thousands of civilians have been injured, with nearly two thousand dead, and many more displaced. At least 11 United States citizens have been killed and more are unaccounted for.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a limited presence in Israel, with under 400 members and three branches.