Mormons returning to Israel
After six-year hiatus due to intifada sect leaders announce renewal of
youth study program in J'lem, pilgrimages to country
The Mormons are back: Mormon leaders told Israel's Consul General in
Los Angeles Ehud Danoch Thursday that they are renewing their student
program in Jerusalem and the pilgrimages to Israel, this after a
six-year hiatus due to the intifda.
There are 12 million Mormons around the world, five million of them in
the United States.
The Mormon leader Gordon Hinckley, dubbed "The prophet," resides in
Salt Lake city, Utah; millions follow his orders with no objection. In
2000, when the intifida broke out, the Mormon Church decided to stop
sending students to their Jerusalem campus extension of Brigham Young
The travel warning issued by the US State Department totally stopped
the Mormons pilgrimages and subsequently dealt a major blow to
Israel's tourism industry.
During the past year Danoch met with Hinckley and other senior Mormon
officials in a bid to convince them that Israel is a safe place and
the travel warning has no real meaning.
"You are supporters of Israel and should show your support in actions,
not only in words," the Israeli consul pleaded.
A few days ago Danoch received a message from the Mormon leadership
that the sect plans to reopen the BYU extension in Jerusalem in
September and send 45 of its students from all over the world to the
capital. Some leaders of the Mormon Church will join the students in
the fall, and the pilgrimages will be resumed.
The Brigham Young University extension in Jerusalem was opened in 1987
after it was agreed with the Jerusalem mayor that no missionary
preaching would take place and only if all students are foreigners and
not local Jews or Arabs.
More good news
Hundreds of students arrived every year since then to study using
subsidized tuitions, and upon returning home they became ambassadors
of good will. During their stay in Israel the Mormon students
participated in archeological digs and enjoyed touring holy sites.
They also took trips all over Israel, and visited Egypt and Jordan.
The Mormon's curriculum in Jerusalem is very popular among the
community's students, who compete for a space at Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, where the beautiful campus overlooks the Temple Mount.
The Mormons' announcement of resuming their activity in Israel joins
another bit of good news: The Presbyterian Church in the United States
decided on Wednesday to drop the two-year economic boycott it imposed
on companies doing business with Israel. The Presbyterian Church has
2.3 million members, and their boycott included companies like
Motorola and Caterpillar and every company with ties to construction