JERUSALEM (ABC4) — Students and expats at Brigham Young University‘s Jerusalem Center are confirmed to be safe amid ongoing conflicts in Israel, including rocket attacks aimed for the Israeli captial.
On Saturday morning, Hamas militants attacked Israel with airstrikes in Gaza. The attacks spread beyond the Gaza Strip into nearby Israeli towns. The BYU Jerusalem Center said rocket fire continued on coastal cities throughout the night with cities such as Tel Aviv, about 33 miles north of Jerusalem, struck in the attack. In a Sunday morning update, Center officials estimated 600 Israelis were killed, 350 seriously wounded and over 1,500 suffering “various injuries.”
“The attack was unexpected and caught virtually everyone by surprise,” Center officials said in a security update. “The Jerusalem Center and surrounding area have never been threatened during these flare-ups however it is unclear whether the situation will escalate and affect Jerusalem.”
There are 93 students and ex-pat Center personnel currently living at the center, which sits on Mount Scopus. On Monday, rocket attacks from militants aimed at Jerusalem sounded alarms. Everyone at the BYU Jerusalem Center, including students, was moved to shelters for the short duration of the attack. The rockets failed to strike the greater Jerusalem area as Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system intercepted several rockets, or they fell harmlessly in areas between Gaza and Jerusalem.
Students in the Jerusalem program spend a semester studying ancient and modern Near Eastern studies as well as the Hebrew and Arabic languages. Several field trips are integrated into the program including trips across the Holy Land and travel into Jordan, and either Egypt, Turkey or Greece.
A field trip, which would have taken the students to Eilat in southern Israel, was canceled. The 93 students and personnel have been instructed to shelter at the BYU Jerusalem center through Monday. Officials said decisions for travel outside of the Center will be made “on a day-to-day basis.”
BYU Jerusalem officials said there have been some “disturbances” in Palestinian neighborhoods in the capital city as the conflict continues. The areas around the Center and throughout most of Jerusalem, however, reportedly continue to remain calm, but tense.
While sheltering within the Center, academic instruction will continue as planned for the students, according to BYU officials. On Sunday, students spent the day working on a humanitarian project. Students were in classes for much of Monday and officials said classes will continue much of each day this week.
Aside from regularly scheduled academic sessions, there have been some student-organized activities and study time within the Center.