A frigid welcome to the Jerusalem Center

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Camels. Semitic languages. Shawarma. Falafel. And snow? BYU students who plan to spend a semester at the Jerusalem Center are ready for new experiences, but the students who arrived two weeks ago can relate to their Utah peers. They, too, experienced unusually intense winter weather.

“It was snowing pretty hard the first day that we arrived on the (Center),” said David Lim, a biology major from Utah, in an email from the Jerusalem Center.

Jerusalem Center students were greeted with a city draped in snow.
Photo Courtesy of David Lim

The weather did not dampen the excitement of the new students, however.

“The snow was a friendly reminder of what many of us had left behind in the U.S.,” Camilla Summers said in an email from the Jerusalem Center. “It came with us to welcome us to the Holy Land.”

CNN reported that the snowstorm caused officials to close public transportation, cut off all the roads leading in and out of the city, and cancel school and some other services. For the Jerusalem Center, however, it was business as usual.

“We, as Jerusalem Center students, did not get our classes cancelled since we eat, sleep, study, attend church, work out and live in the same place that we have class,” Summers said.

One BYU Jerusalem Center professor even used the snow to better explain Isaiah. Aaron Schade, an Old Testament professor, reminded students that, according to Isaiah 1:18, their sins can become “as white as snow.”

It may have been an adventure for the students, but James Kearl, assistant to the President for the Jerusalem Center, insisted that the snow in Jerusalem was hardly news. The snow melted quickly, and the city returned to its usual mild-wintered self.

“It snows a foot every third or fourth January or so,” Kearl said. “The snowstorm had virtually no effect on the program or the students except to make their arrival in Jerusalem a little more novel.”

Two field trips were rearranged to avoid a snowy walk in East Jerusalem, but the schedule remained intact.

Still, the snow at the Jerusalem Center provided students with a few unique challenges. The hallways that lead to students’ rooms in the Center are outdoor without roofs. This made going to bed a slightly chilly experience, Summers said.

But the most important question is — did the students have a snowball fight?

“We did manage to find our way onto the patio after our lunch hour so that we could enjoy the snow and throw snowballs at each other,” Summers said. “It was definitely a good way for all of us to ‘break the ice,’ pun intended, and grow close quickly as a group.”

Lim said they saw several local children who were experiencing snow for the first time. The kids tossed a few snowballs at the students as they walked by on their way to the Old City of Jerusalem.

“Everything is an adventure here,” Summers said.

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