JERUSALEM — When it comes to BYU's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, no news is good news, and right now the going is great.
That's essentially the message program director Eran Hayet conveyed during an interview in his office at the Jerusalem Center, which is situated atop Mount Scopus and endowed with an idyllic view of the Old City.
"We are following more or less the same model that we always have," said Hayet, who has worked at the center since 1994. "We might change a field trip here or there … but these are minor changes. All in all we are following the same model."
The Jerusalem Center, closed from 2001 to 2006 because of safety concerns, welcomes a new group of about 80 university students every four months. Only full-time students at BYU, BYU-Idaho or BYU-Hawaii are eligible to attend; $10,000 covers a student's round-trip airfare, food, lodging, field-trip expenses, laundry and tuition for a curriculum that can yield up to 18 credit hours.
Jim Kearl, the BYU administrator charged with oversight of the Jerusalem Center since 1989, indicated several weeks ago during a conversation in his Provo office that high-level discussions would be held in the coming months about the possibility of expanding the Jerusalem Center's enrollment closer to its capacity of 160 students per semester.
Kearl further explained that if and when the decision is made to augment enrollment, the Jerusalem Center would have to extend its admissions policies to include university students attending schools other than the three BYU campuses.
Early next year BYU Jerusalem Center will mark its 25th anniversary. But arguably the biggest news to recently emerge from the center — the revelation that the magnificent handcrafted Danish pipe organ in the center's upper auditorium was just treated to the first thorough cleaning of its 25-year existence — isn't going to generate any headlines. And that fits just fine with the stay-under-the-radar philosophy that Hayet and Kearl subscribe to.
"I hope we just can continue presenting a life-changing experience for the students," Hayet said. "We don't need major revolutions here. … We are modest and humble, and most of the things we do we try to do low-profile."
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