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BYU to restrict Jerusalem Center travel after Trump decision

BYU Jerusalem Center
BYU Jerusalem Center
Deseret News archives

PROVO — BYU students studying at the university's Jerusalem Center are under new travel restrictions due to violence over President Donald Trump's announcement that the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Protests by Palestinians, who say believe they have a right to a future capital of a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, led to clashes with Israeli soldiers. At least one person is dead and more than 100 have been injured across Israel, according to the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh declared Friday a day of rage that should kickstart an uprising to free Jerusalem.

Security restrictions are normal for the BYU Jerusalem Center, which sits halfway up Mount Scopus overlooking the Mount of Olives and the Old City. It is about a half-hour walk from Damascus Gate, one of seven entrances to the Old City and the site of Palestinian protests on Thursday.

Students regularly walk around Jerusalem and make trips to other areas throughout Israel and the Middle East that are part of the semester-long study abroad program. However, they strictly follow security guidelines and restrictions to avoid flashpoints and unrest.

Most of the violence and unrest this week has been in areas outside Jerusalem.

BYU released a security update on the center's website on Wednesday night, hours after the president's announcement.

"It is expected that there will be some unrest and possibly violence in the next few days," the BYU update predicted correctly. "As such, travel by students and other personnel living at BYU's Jerusalem Center to East Jerusalem and the Old City has been restricted starting (Thursday). How long the restrictions will be in place, and whether they will be extended to other parts of Jerusalem, are decisions that will be made as the extent of the reaction to President Trump's announcement is observed over the next several days."

The State Department restricted travel for U.S. government employees in Jerusalem and the West Bank and warned U.S. citizens to avoid crowded areas, according to the Washington Post.

The BYU Jerusalem Center opened in 1987. Unrest in the region led BYU to suspend studies there in 2000, but students returned in 2007. BYU security and administrators constantly monitor security issues, and the center, while a mile from the Old City, is in an isolated area surrounded by important Arab sites and neighborhoods.