A statement released by Israeli announced there was enough evidence to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, according to the BBC. Netanyahu denies these charges and the world is watching to see what happens next.
While the Israeli government handles this latest scandal, the BYU Jerusalem Center remains open for students who want new and unique experiences.
Waking to the sound of a Muslim prayer instead of it snowing for the fourth week in a row in Rexburg is something that students in Jerusalem experience on a day-to-day basis. In addition, new friendships, trips and unique educational opportunities await those who travel halfway to a city that has been the center of attention for millennia.
Since its opening in 1989, the Jerusalem Center has been open to any students from Church schools and runs year-round, according to LDS Living.
Students attending the Center gain a unique opportunity to explore most of Israel, visiting sights such as Jericho, Bethlehem, the Red Sea, Nazareth, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. In addition, students get the chance to travel across the Middle East, visiting countries such as Egypt and either Jordan or Greece, with an additional two-week trip to Galilee.
Madeleine Emery Johnson, a senior studying sociology, said, “I wanted an international experience. I felt like Israel wasn’t somewhere super common, and I was super excited to learn about the Bible by being there.”
Johnson is not the only individual who attended the Center for those ambitions.
Philip Allred, who taught Near Eastern Studies at the BYU Jerusalem Center and current teacher of religious studies at BYU-Idaho, said, “I really wanted to walk where Jesus walked and where the Apostles walked, like anybody, and understand the text through the fifth gospel — the fifth gospel being the landscape.”
Both students and faculty alike have fond memories of visiting many of the sights the BYU Jerusalem Center has to offer.
“Going to Turkey (was my favorite part),” Johnson said. “Going to Bethlehem was also really cool, and it’s something I always think about when it’s Christmas.”
With trips within the country coming once a week and trips out of the country coming about every month for an extended amount of time, students are always visiting ancient historical sights.
Kayenta Ryan, a senior studying humanities and a former student of the Center, said, “I love (being) able to read the scriptures and have experiences and images (of Israel) come back to mind.”
In addition to students taking trips on a weekly basis, certain classes at the Center are required, including Old Testament Studies and New Testament Studies, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Arab and Islamic Civilization, Israeli and Jewish civilization and an option of either Hebrew or Arabic.
Studying about the locations in these classes and then having the opportunity to go and visit them adds a special meaning for many of the students who attend.
Students and faculty not only attribute the sights as the highlights of their trip but also the people they meet and interact with.
“Living with everyone for three and a half months, becoming friends with everyone in classes, and eating with your roommates helps you make many wonderful friendships and draws you together as a group,” Ryan said.
In addition, students build bonds with Israeli workers at the Center regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
“I love that they had equal numbers of Israelis and Palestinians on staff,” Allred said. “They loved each other and worked together. It wasn’t perfect, but they worked it out.”
Students and faculty said the Center has done nothing but help them to be more aware of the issues surrounding Israel.
“Not having been there I would not of understood politics in the same way,” Ryan said. “Seeing why the Middle East is the nucleus of world politics and how a small city like Jerusalem can influence the entire rest of the world in profound ways is interesting to see.”
Students mainly have a chance to learn about the current and political issues surrounding the country in the center’s Jewish and Palestinian civilization courses.
“It’s a really complex set, with people on both sides and people against peace on both sides,” Allred said. “You have to look at each person, each family and see them for the unique position they take and the unique people they are.”
In addition to learning of the current political issues within the country, students and faculty can attest to many spiritual experiences they had in Israel as well.
“When you are in Jerusalem, everything is about the gospel and learning about Christ,” Johnson said. “I feel like it strengthened my testimony and I always have that to go back too.”
Other students and faculty shared the same outlook and views on gaining spiritual experiences through the Center.
“It was a completely life-changing experience to walk in places where the scriptures happened and to see them open before your eyes to get a great understanding and testimony of Christ and the Atonement,” Ryan said.
For those considering going to the BYU Jerusalem Center students and faculty alike tell potential students to take the jump.
“Go!” Allred said. “If it were possible, travel study is the most efficient form of education. Go to places, meet the people, smell their air. This is the most efficient way of education.”
Most students and faculty agreed they have no regrets and found this opportunity to be a life-changing experience.
“Do it,” Johnson said. “It’s so worth it, those experiences will last a life time.”
Those interested in finding out more about the BYU Jerusalem Center can visit their website at jerusalemcenter.ce.byu.edu or can call at 801-422-6017.