Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies

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Mormon Brigham Young University's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies
Brigham Young University's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies

The Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies is located at the juxtaposition of Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel. It is owned and operated by Brigham Young University. Classes are part of the Jerusalem semester-abroad program administrated by Brigham Young University. First occupied in March 1987, the center was dedicated in May 1989 by Howard W. Hunter. [1]

The Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies grew out of a Jerusalem "semester abroad" educational program for undergraduates instituted by Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1968. It became popular among Latter-day Saint students because of their commitment to the religious traditions of the Bible. In the early 1980s the construction of the Center faced resolute opposition from certain religious circles and Israeli nationalist groups who feared that the Center might become a base for Latter-day Saint proselytizing of Jews. In the spirit of accommodation and out of a desire for peaceful interfaith relations, BYU agreed with the government of Israel that the Center would be used exclusively for educational and cultural activities.

Students enroll through the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, travel to the Holy Land, and live in the Center for programs that extend for four months. Students study a core curriculum that focuses on Old and New Testament, ancient and modern Near Eastern studies, and language (Hebrew and Arabic). Classroom study is built around field trips that cover the length and breadth of the Holy Land.

The Jerusalem Center, with Hebrew University in the background
The Jerusalem Center, with Hebrew University in the background © Brigham Young University
The Center also helps to serve the spiritual needs of Latter-day Saints, visiting or residing, in the Holy Land. An ecclesiastical organization consisting of a district and several branches has been established to provide worship services each sabbath.
The Center itself is a beautiful building on Mount Scopus overlooking the Mount of Olives, the Kidron Valley, and the Old City. The 125,000 square-foot, eight-level structure is set amid five acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. The first five levels (moving up from the lowest level) provide dormitory and apartment space for up to 170 students. Dormitory rooms accommodate four people with ample study space and a private bath. Each of these rooms has a patio overlooking the Old City. The sixth level houses a cafeteria, classrooms, computer facilities, and a gymnasium. Administrative and faculty offices are located on the seventh level, as is a 250-seat auditorium. The main entry is on the eighth level, which also contains a spectacular recital and special events auditorium with organ, lecture rooms, general and reserve libraries, offices, a domed theater, and a learning resource area.
The facilities at the Jerusalem Center are available only to full-time students formally enrolled in a BYU Jerusalem Center program. For those interested in visiting the building, a 45-60 minute tour is available. The tour includes a hosting video, a ten-minute organ recital, and a tour of the eighth floor and the Jerusalem Center gardens. [2]


  1. Light Planet: BYU Jerusalem Center [1]
  2. BYU/Jerusalem website [2]