PROVO, Utah (ABC4) — The 93 students who are overseas as part of Brigham Young University‘s Near Eastern Studies program will be returning home on Tuesday, Oct. 31, Jerusalem Center officials announced this week.
The students will be flying home from Greece, where they fled after leaving the Jerusalem Center last Sunday. Since touching down in Athens, the students have been staying at a hotel near Nafplion.
The students were joined in Greece by BYU Jerusalem staff, their families, and service couples. Center officials did not specify if they would be joining the students in leaving Greece or if they would be staying behind.
Meanwhile, Center Executive Director Eran Hayet, Associate Director Tawfic Alawi, Head of Security Tarek Safadi and nearly 50 local employees and their families stayed behind at the Center in Israel.
According to regular updates provided by the BYU Jerusalem Center in Israel, the students and faculty at the Center did not face any direct danger before leaving for Greece.
Officials reported Jerusalem remained relatively quiet despite the ongoing conflict in border cities near Gaza and in Tel-Aviv, northeast of Jerusalem.
Tensions did rise on Friday, Oct. 13, as Muslims gathered for noon prayer and minor skirmishes took place between Palestinians and Israeli police, according to BYU Jerusalem officials. Jerusalem was under the greatest threat on Monday, Oct. 9, when the Center reported rockets flying with a trajectory toward greater Jerusalem. These rockets were either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or fell harmlessly in rural areas between Gaza and the Israel capital.
At least 30 Americans have been killed in Israel during the conflict with Hamas as of Tuesday, Oct. 17, with the U.S. State Department aware of 13 more missing. One man with ties to Utah is among the list of Americans killed. Lotan Abir was in Israel to attend a rave with a group of his friends when he was killed the Friday after the conflict broke out. His friends were reportedly able to survive.