By Cameron Woolley
A throng of family and friends welcomed BYU Jerusalem students home from the Holy Land at the Salt Lake City Airport Tuesday, Nov. 14.
“The students were not being threatened, they were not in danger,” said Carri Jenkins, assistant to the president over university communications. “It was just a good time to come home.”
All 174 students arrived at their respective destinations in the United States, two weeks earlier than originally planned. Ten of them arrived in Salt Lake City Tuesday.
The decision to end the semester early was made by Jerusalem Center leadership and President Merrill J. Batemen, Jenkins said. Students still fulfilled all their credit requirements.
Although compensation for the missed travel may be an issue for some, the university’s main concern was getting all the students home safely, she said.
Wearing T-shirts stenciled with “Lockdown 2000,” the students at the airport glowed with stories about their positive experiences in Jerusalem.
“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Annaleise Allen, 24, a senior from Layton, Utah.
The group spent their last three weeks abroad traveling through Sinai and Galilee. Students visited almost every place the program had planned for and some areas, such as Hebron and Nautilus, that have not been seen in five years.
“Our administration was very careful about where they took us. We never felt threatened,” Allen said.
While at the center, students witnessed chaos in the city.
Demonstrations, fires, shootings, ambulances and helicopters are some of what Julie Adams saw raging outside the Jerusalem Center.
But she still felt safe.
“There were security guards looking out for us. The times that it was dangerous, we weren’t allowed to go out,” said Adams, 20, a junior from Sandy, Utah, majoring in psychology.
She said the students knew of the precarious setting around them because of continual news reports from CNN and security reports from the center’s administrators.
Amid the outside danger, inside the center the group grew closer, Adams said.
“I think we all had an opportunity to learn from the conflict,” Allen said. “I come away not having an opinion of which side is right or wrong but more where each side is coming from.”