BYU’s Jerusalem Center to reopen in April following 2-year, pandemic-forced closure

Cassidy Heaton and Chelsea Neubert, students at the BYU Jerusalem Center, look over the view of the Old City in Jerusalem on Friday, April 13, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
A view of the window of BYU's Jerusalem Center. Credit: BYU
Elder Howard W. Hunter played a key role in developing the Church facilities in Jerusalem: the Orson Hyde Memorial Garden and the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Credit: Courtesy Church History Library

Following a two-year, pandemic-forced closure, the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies will soon be open again for students eager to experience the Holy Land’s unique educational and spiritual opportunities.

“We’ve announced that we are reopening our student program at the end of April for the spring/summer terms,” James Kearl, a BYU economics professor and Assistant to the University President for the Jerusalem Center, told the Church News.

Eighty-eight BYU students are expected to participate in the center’s first semester back in operation. It is hoped that the center will be at full student capacity — 108 students — by the fall 2022 semester.

Meanwhile, the center’s traditional community outreach programs — including public tours and concerts — are expected to remain on hold until the end of June. “The building will remain closed to all visitors, except our students, for at least a couple of months,” said Kearl.

The Jerusalem Center has been closed to students since March 18, 2020, almost two years ago. Faculty and service couples left a couple months later as the COVID-19 pandemic continued its global spread.

BYU Jerusalem Center
The BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies will reopen to students in April, 2022. The center was closed for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. | Credit: Mark A. Philbrick, BYU Photo

News of the center’s fast-approaching re-opening is joyous news for scores of BYU students and others connected to the facility and its prophetic mission.

“We are delighted… . We are excited to get back to being a fully operational center,” said Kearl.

Dedicated in 1989, BYU’s Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies is the Church-sponsored school’s “home base” for study in the Holy Land. BYU undergraduate students participating in the semester-long program live in the center and study, according to the center’s website, “a core curriculum focused on the Old and New Testaments, ancient and modern Near Eastern studies and the Hebrew and Arabic languages.”

Classroom study is integrated with field trips spanning the length and breadth of the Holy Land, as well as travel to Jordan and to either Egypt or Greece.

Although the Jerusalem Center has been closed for traditional study over the past two years, the facility has not been entirely dormant. Directors at the center have utilized the downtime to complete needed renovations and refurbishments, said Kearl.

At a 2019 event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Jerusalem Center, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified that the facility is the product of many miracles. 

Since its inception, he added, the center has been shepherded by wise, devoted leaders.

At the end of his address, Elder Holland emphasized four of the many lessons he has learned from the miracles of the Jerusalem Center. 

  1. The Lord can do His own work. “He would like us to help. Very often He needs us to help. But I testify in this case and many others, the Lord can do His own work. He did His own work there.”
  2. People were in the right place at the right time to bring about this large miracle. “It’s not the glass or teak wood or stone I think about most when I think of the Jerusalem Center. It is the people then and now, there and here, who through their faith and good works made it happen. That is what I think about when I consider this special place.”
  3. In the work of the Lord, press forward with courage. “When you start something in the great cause of the kingdom, don’t stop voluntarily. … We were moving dirt in August 1984, but we were acting on sheer faith because we did not yet have a clear green light to do so. If we had not started in faith and persisted while we prayed, we would not be at that center today.”
  4. The full potential of the BYU Jerusalem Center is still unrealized. “I don’t know what it will mean a generation after we’re gone or what future purposes the Lord will have for it, but I hope students from all over the world can be blessed by it. My testimony to you is that the Lord wanted that center built and has it there for great purposes that we now see only dimly.”

Read more: Elder Holland gives an inside look to miracles that made the BYU Jerusalem Center possible

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed