By Jared Preusz
Despite the conflict, bloodshed and turmoil that has sporadically rocked Israel and Jerusalem, 44 students are now attending classes at the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies for the first time in six years.
There will also be an increase in the enrollment of students to 88 for both Spring and Summer Terms for the center, inching closer to its maximum capacity of 170 students, according to the BYU Jerusalem Center Web site.
“We have always had numbers in line with this enrollment and we would like to provide this opportunity to as many students as possible,” said Carri Jenkins, assistant to the president of University Communications.
Students are studying in Israel proper and in most Palestinian areas. The curriculum for these students consists of classes such as the Old and New Testament, ancient and modern new eastern studies, and the Arabic and Hebrew languages.
Six faculty members, including two professors from the BYU Religion Department, two Israelis and two Palestinians, currently teach these classes at the center.
Classroom study incorporates field trips to the Holy Land, and even to places like Jordan, Egypt and Turkey. These trips are what make the BYU Jerusalem Center unique compared to the traditional BYU classroom.
“One of the great benefits of studying at the Jerusalem Center is to be able to learn in the classroom and then to experience it firsthand,” Jenkins said.
Matthew Thomas is one of the students now in Jerusalem experiencing outside what he learns in the classroom. He writes regularly in a blog, jerusalem-experience.blogspot.com, about his studies in Jerusalem. Wednesday, Thomas wrote about a visit to the Western Wall, a historic site in Jerusalem, and the reactions of the people there on the scene.
“There were just a few of us and I can honestly say I cried,” Thomas wrote. “The dedication of those people and the longing for a time when they had a temple and prophets and guidance from God was overwhelming. I was able to touch a wall that was built over 2,000 years ago for the purpose of worshiping the Lord and it”s just amazing to be right there.”
Richard Holzapfel, professor of church history and doctrine, was a former teacher at the Jerusalem Center in 1997 to 1998, and believes the program offers an opportunity unlike any other.
Students as a result of their studies of the Bible and Jerusalem, will “be sharing and teaching their perceptions of the Holy Land to hundreds and maybe thousands of people throughout their lives,” Holzapfel said.
Lori Olsen, who participated in the Jerusalem program in 1997, remembers how her studies in Jerusalem helped her to understand the Bible better.
“Now, when I read the Bible, and read of things that happened in Bethel, Ai, Hebron…Jericho, those places come alive and mean something to me,” Olsen said. “I can picture the scenes of the beautiful green hills of Galilee and the scorching heat of Jericho. I can picture Abraham going to rescue Lot in the city of Dan.”
Richard Draper, associate dean of religious education is aware of this special learning experience.
“There is a power of spirit of place that one can enjoy on site,” Draper said.
Requirements to Participate in the BYU Jerusalem Program
* Full-time BYU undergraduate
* 2.5 G.P.A. in core academic courses
* Sign an agreement that you will not proselyte
* Winter Semester cost: $7,725
* Spring and Summer Terms cost: $5,840
* Spring Term application deadline: Feb. 2
* Summer Term application deadline: March 16