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Thursday, January 25, 2007

BYU in Jerusalem

Brothers and Sisters:

How do other people view those of us who are members of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints?

Here is a news report from an Israeli web site, "Y NET NEWS" about the Brigham Young University campus in Jerusalem:



By: Ron Peled



Take the most beautiful view in Israel, add it to a biblical garden abundant with foliage, a concert hall, a library, student dormitories and house them all in one of the most impressive buildings around - and what you get is the Mormon Brigham Young University, or going by its more modern name - The Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, located adjacent to the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

In 1982, a decision was made to construct the academic complex in Jerusalem as an offshoot of the Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City in the United States.
The words "The world is our campus" are engraved in stone at the entrance to the complex.

According to the Mormon community, the return of the Jews to their homeland after years of exile is very important and therefore it is only natural that they would aspire to build the complex.

Several years elapsed until the construction plan was approved because as is common in our parts, the idea turned into a public debate.

As the Mormon community is known to be a Christian missionary community, it was argued at the time that they had come to Israel with the aim of converting Jews to Christianity.

Construction of the university got underway in 1985 and inaugurated two years later, only after assurances were made that Jews would not be enrolled at the university and that its occupants would not be involved in missionary work.

Construction of the complex completed a circle.

Beginning in the Nineteenth Century, the Mormons attempted to build a complex in the Holy Land (as did the German Templars and many other Catholic denominations) in Jaffa and in the Jezreel Valley.
The aim was to build charity, education, medical and housing centers as well as missionaries ahead of the second coming of Christ in the next millennium.

In the summer of 1867, a group of one hundred and sixty-seven people from the United States led by George Adams, set out to establish a Mormon farming community in Jaffa.

Due to various problems, such as diseases and death, the farming community was dismantled.

Those who remained in Israel instead of returning to the United States relocated to Jerusalem and were led by Floyd and Clark.

At the time, Floyd who lives on the corner of King George and Agripas Streets, worked as a tour guide and drove pilgrims from Jaffa to the Holy City.

That's how the Mormon community began to take shape in Jerusalem.

A full circle was only made in 1987, when the university was completed on the mountain ridge of the Mount of Olives.

The idea behind the center was to build a "jewel in the crown" for the Mormon community in the Holy Land, their objective was one: to build an academic institution.

Students have recently returned to the university after an absence of six years due to the volatile security situation in Israel.

Israeli architects David Reznick and Frank Ferguson, were careful to remain loyal to the concept of the building which called for it to blend into the surrounding landscape without damaging it.

And indeed, the structure is terraced and symbolizes the Old City with architectural elements such as alleyways, arched entrances, corridors and internal courtyards.
The building is visible to all and emanates a sense of infinite natural light wherever possible.
It is no wonder the building was awarded many prestigious prizes for its form and location (contrary to the Hebrew University that is undoubtedly fascinating from an historical point of view, but falls short of the Mormon complex in its architectural design).
Organized tours take visitors into the gates and continue on the stone path, where they will notice an entrance with two fountains, one on each side, in which the water symbolizes life.
Those with sharp eyes will notice that the iron wrought gate is designed in the shape of a Menorah.
Upon turning left visitors will reach the library which houses some seven thousand books.
Immediately after, visitors can descend towards the student quarters.
The complex comprises a total of eight levels whereby the top three offer public functions such as the library and administration offices.
Out on the expansive terrace overlooking the Old City, visitors can get a view of the entire city with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher at its center in the Christian quarter.
They can also view the Temple Mount as well as the YMCA Tower and the King David Hotel located in the new part of the city to the west.
Further into the yard latticed Burmese wooden canopies provide shade during the hot summer days.
The entire complex is filled with Italian marble, European glass and oak and features an organ from Denmark - in short the complex incorporates a melting pot of styles.
The courtyard features several models of Jerusalem throughout different periods.
Back inside the building visitors can visit the auditorium which also serves as a concert hall.
The hall is designed as a glass box whose sole purpose is to let the sunlight in from every direction.
Naturally, the glass windows at the front of the stage face the Old City.
Once a week, on Sundays at eight P.M., the hall, comprising three hundred and thirty-four seats, hosts a free concert to the background of the city's lights.

The gigantic organ at the top part of the hall was donated by an anonymous philanthropist and is valued at five hundred million United States dollars.

The organ was built and arrived here directly from Denmark and is considered to be the largest in the Middle East.

It comprises no less than three thousand pipes.

During a group visit to the Mormon complex, visitors can expect a short and impressive concert.

Upon leaving the hall towards the biblical garden in the northern part of the complex, visitors can get a glimpse of the lush foliage such as vines, miniature ivy and lilies.

The garden was designed by landscape designer Dan Tzur and features olive and wine presses.

A large wine press is located towards the end of the garden where students tread grapes during the harvest season.

An impressive seven hundred year old olive tree brought here directly from the Golan Heights is situated adjacent to the wine press and entrance gate.

To coordinate free excursions for groups and individuals, please call:


Back in 1971, when I was in Israel, as a soldier on leave from Viet Nam, the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies didn't exist.

In fact, I couldn't make contact with any other Latter-day Saint the entire time I was there.

Also, I was the only Christian in a Jewish guided tour group.

That's because I stayed at a hotel in Tel Aviv, which is exclusively a Jewish city.

If you want to go on Christian oriented guided tours, then you stay at hotels in Jerusalem, which caters to Christians.

At the time, I didn't know the difference.

But, I still had a ball, and my Jewish companions were very nice to me, generously overlooking my horrible ignorance and patiently helping me learn about Judaism.

It was fun trying to join in the Hebrew campfire songs, futilely attempting to imitate a language I didn't know.

Visiting Israel was one of the inspirational highlights of my life, and I heartily recommend it to anyone, war or no war.

I hope I can visit there again someday.

Thank you.

John Robert "SAIGON" Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

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