BYU Jerusalem Center students returning home at the end of the month

Plan to return follows attacks and ongoing military conflict in southern Israel, which prompted BYU to move students from Jerusalem to Greece 

Students taking part in the fall 2023 program at the BYU Jerusalem Center will be returning home on Tuesday, Oct. 31, the center announced on Oct. 18.

The students and faculty were evacuated to Greece — arriving in Athens on Sunday, Oct. 15 — after attacks and ongoing military conflict in southern Israel that began on Saturday, Oct. 7.

A security update posted Wednesday, Oct. 18, stated: “Students will be returning home from Greece on Tuesday, October 31st.”

James R. Kearl, the assistant to the university president for the Jerusalem Center, explained how the time will be spent.

“The Jerusalem Center students who were relocated to Greece are completing some additional course work in the mornings this week, with their afternoons and evenings free for individual study and to explore the area around them,” Kearl said. 

He said the students will leave on an eight-day field trip on Oct. 22 that starts in Thessaloniki and ends in Athens.

“When they return to their homes, they will complete one class, starting in early November. They will take the final exam in this class during BYU’s scheduled final exam period in December. This class will be taught via Zoom by the professor who taught the first half of the class in-person in Jerusalem,” Kearl said.

In addition to the 93 students and faculty, faculty families and service couples also relocated to Greece. But other officials and local employees and their families remained at the Jerusalem Center.

“These beloved and trusted individuals and families — Israelis and Palestinians — remain in harms way. We ask that you pray for their safety and well being,” said a security update on Oct. 15.

The 2023 fall program was originally scheduled to run Sept. 5 through Dec. 21, mirroring the fall semester schedule on the Provo, Utah, campus of Brigham Young University.

The center is operated by BYU, which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On Oct. 12, the Church’s First Presidency issued a statement on Middle East violence.

“We are devastated by the recent eruption of violence and loss of life in the Middle East,” wrote the First Presidency. “Violence of this nature is abhorrent to us and is not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gospel of peace. At such times, our hearts ache for all victims of this atrocity.

“As servants of God, we affirm that He calls upon all of us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we pray for a peaceful resolution of all conflicts.”

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