PROVO — The BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies is one of 120 sites in the city inviting visitors this week during Open House Jerusalem 2013.
"They have identified those sites important architecturally in Jerusalem," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "The Jerusalem Center was identified as one of those sites."
The oldest daily newspaper in Israel, Haaretz, wrote a lengthy piece about the center in the context of the open house festival Thursday through Saturday.
The story ran under the provocative title "Reading the Book of Mormon on Mount Scopus." The Book of Mormon is not mentioned anywhere in the story, but the story revisits some of the complexities in the center's history in the city and the agreement made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that none of its members would proselyte in Israel.
The story quotes Naomi Weinstein, the center's director of its cultural programming for nearly 20 years, as saying “there is no missionary activity; there never was and there never will be such activity. When people bump into Mormon University students in Jerusalem and ask them what is Mormonism, they invariably hear the reply, 'Sorry, we are not allowed to talk about that subject.'"
The story focuses on the building's architecture, calling it "very Jerusalemite."
“This is a neighborhood housing a very specific community and it has managed to spread itself over its site in an exquisite manner," Haaretz reporter Keshet Rosenblum wrote. "The students have their own private balconies overlooking the Jerusalem landscape and there are many corners into which one can almost disappear; nonetheless, the complex still remains a dormitory structure.”
The center hosts regular concerts and is open to the public year-round.
"We welcome visitors to the Jerusalem Center, not only during this week featuring the architecture of Jerusalem," Jenkins said, "but at all times, just as we have done since the center opened."
Eighty BYU students are studying at the center, which offers a curriculum that introduces them to biblical studies and to Near Eastern history, geography, culture and current events. Field trips cover the length and breadth of the Holy Land and include travel to Jordan and Turkey.