When Iraqi missiles began to rock Tel Aviv, more than a dozen Utahns at Brigham Young University's Jerusalem Center donned gas masks and huddled in a bomb shelter.

But a day later, the staff was on the eighth floor of the building watching the movie, "A Miracle on 34th Street," the center's director, George Horton, said Friday.Twenty-seven Americans at the center, all staff members and their families, said they have no intention of leaving Jerusalem even though the sounds of war echo just 40 miles to the northwest of them, he said.

"I personally feel a great responsibility to stay here and see that the Jerusalem Center is preserved," Horton said in a telephone interview Friday from Jerusalem.

"Others want to stay for work reasons," he said. "Others want to stay for research reasons. They like it here, they like the center, they like the program, and they don't want to leave unless they have to."

Eight Iraqi Scud missiles reportedly hit Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel Thursday.

The faculty and their families, including a dozen children ranging from a newborn baby to a teenager, sat in the shelter for about three hours before Israeli radio advised it would be all right to take off their gas masks.

Even though the closest attack was just 35 miles from Jerusalem, people in the city have quietly settled in their homes, waiting for news of an escalating war, said Horton, of Provo.

"The city is very quiet. They've placed curfews in some of the areas and told all of the people to stay in their homes and their shelters and sealed rooms," he said. "It's hard to get a phone line too."

The center, which sits between a Palestinian neighborhood and a Hebrew University, specializes in Middle Eastern Studies. Enrollment for the winter-spring quarter was canceled due to the conflict.

Two families reportedly left the center Monday and one or two other faculty members may leave in the next few days, Horton said, but the rest have elected to stay.

"There has been a feeling here for a long time that the center and Jerusalem were probably about the safest place in the country to be. If there were any missiles, they would go toward Tel Aviv or the coast," he said.