BYU Jerusalem Center students and faculty took cover in bomb shelters Tuesday in response to Hamas missile attacks targeting southern Israel, including Jerusalem.
Code red sirens blared throughout Jerusalem when rockets fired by al-Quds, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, were fired into Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other towns in southern Israel. BYU Jerusalem Center’s administration responded immediately by directing students and other personnel, including faculty and staff, to two bomb shelters located within the center.
Taking cover in the center’s bomb shelters is not a routine occurrence. During most semesters, students never need to go underground. And even though time in the shelters was short, the tension is present.
BYU issued a statement Monday informing parents and others that everything is under control and that steps are being taken to ensure students’ safety:
“The Jerusalem Center is safe. All students participated in a calm and uneventful field trip to Bethlehem earlier today. Because of current tensions, East Jerusalem and the Old City are currently off limits to students, and travel to West Jerusalem is permitted during daylight hours only. Travel to and from West Jerusalem is by taxi only, and the use of public transportation within Jerusalem is prohibited until further notice.”
The missile attacks have increased the tensions in Israel, already high during the last few weeks after three kidnapped Israeli teens were found murdered in Palestinian-controlled West Bank and a Palestinian teen was burned alive by Israeli extremists. The Israeli military has responded to the attacks with deadly force, deploying active and reserve army, navy, and air forces to Gaza to quell the situation.
The State Department hasn’t issued an updated travel warning for Israel and the West Bank since February, when it advised Americans not to travel to the Gaza strip but characterized safety in most major metropolitan areas as “comparable to or better than those in other major global cities.”
“Over 3 million foreign citizens, including hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, safely visit Israel and the West Bank each year for study, tourism, and business. The Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority make considerable efforts to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations,” the State Department advisory says.