Two months after their return, BYU Jerusalem Center students reunited to reminisce about their semester.
Students agree their semester in Israel has increased their compassion for both sides of the conflict.
“I feel like I have a much more balanced view,” said Bradley Ross, a computer science major from Page, Ariz. “I would be much more apt to say they are both (Israeli and Palestinian) in need of making a lot more concessions.”
Concession has become a bloody bill to pay. The conflict that sent 174 students home almost a month early from their semester abroad has claimed the lives of nearly 400 people, the majority of deaths being Palestinian.
“Am I sad that we had to come home early?” said Ashley Shepherd of Littleton, Colo. “I am just glad I got to go. It’s such an amazing city and you get attached to it.”
Attachment to claims of land is at the root of the Palestinian-Israeli issue. For the past 52 years, since Israel became independent, disputes over issues such as the control of holy sites, water rights and refugee problems has “created a mess,” said Bridget Cahow, from Palos Verdes Calif.
One day before leaving office, former President Bill Clinton addressed open letters to Israeli and Palestinian citizens. Explaining that “the violence does not demonstrate that the quest for peace has gone to far, but that it has not gone far enough,” Clinton encouraged both sides to work toward a peaceful resolution.
Feb. 6 will be a decisive day as Prime Minister Ehud Barak faces re-election against Likud Chairman Ariel Sharon. Current Israeli polls put Sharon ahead in the race for Prime Minister.
Looking forward, US Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell explained the Bush administration’s immediate policy toward the Middle East. Planning to “be ready to move forward as soon as the parties in the region are ready to move forward,” Powell told Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Wednesday that the Bush administration will not “be standing by idly.”
Considering the danger, “I would honestly recommend it to anyone who has ever considered going to the Jerusalem Center,” said Christine Jackson of Scarsdale, N. Y.
Last semester students were able to complete the program and “never really felt threatened,” said Wendy Christensen from St. George, Utah. “If anything was going on that was scary outside, we had to stay in the center,” she said.
The experience was at times trying, according to students who were there. With full academic loads, a busy travel schedule and a yo-yo of emotions, faculty and staff prepared for whatever was to come.
Jason Arbuckle, of the University of Utah, would “recommend it for most people.” Adding that “there are some, I don’t know if they would enjoy it or be ready for the experience they had; it can be pretty intense and scary,” Arbuckle concluded that he “would recommend it for most people.”
See related stories:
BYU students eyewitness Jerusalem conflicts 10/05/2000
Jerusalem students to return Nov. 24 11/09/2000
Winter Jerusalem program cancelled 12/01/2000