Saturday, March 3, 2007

Church in Israel

When the Center was being built, there were protests all over the city of Jerusalem because of the "Mormon Missionary Center," as they called it, that was being built on Mt. Scopus. The students had been here for decades, but the thought of having a permanent residence for the Mormons was opposed by 80% of the residents of Jerusalem. All during construction, those in charge received threats of violence, censure, and foreclosure of the lease.
Even though the Church had previously agreed to a non-proselytizing (apparently the word "proselyte" isn't a verb, it's only a noun) condition here in Israel, BYU decided that a firmer commitment was needed. Jeffrey R. Holland, who was the President of BYU at the time, obtained a signed statement from Howard W. Hunter and brought it to Israel. After he arrived, protesters gathered outside his hotel, but rather than stay inside, he went out and talked with each protester individually. After his visit, instead of 80% of the people being opposed to the Center being built, only about 30% were opposed. The rest of the construction was still rocky, but bearable.
The non-proselytizing agreement is one that every member in Israel, and not just the students, abide by. Before we left, we were informed that the only correct answer to a question that dealt with our beliefs was "I cannot talk about the matter." The direct result of this agreement means that, to this day, there are only 3 known native-Israeli members of the Church. Up until yesterday we only knew about two, but a guy that was baptized in South America and came back to Israel finally found the church here after years of separation. His parents (his father was a Rabbi) and his mother were both killed for their beliefs in the church, and since then he's never told anyone that he's a member. I can't say his name, nor will I give any personal information past what I've already said, but he's a fascinating individual.
One more bit of AWESOME news! In two weeks there will a dedication of the first LDS chapel in Israel --in Tiberias by the Galilee. Jeffrey R. Holland is coming to dedicate it and will be staying at the Center with Elder Samuelson and Dr. Kearl for a while. We're so excited!! They'll actually be staying in the Center and even though they'll have a really busy schedule, we may actually be able to eat with them and talk with them for a while. Elder Holland will also be giving a fireside for the branch here.

1 comment:

Kathy D said...

Hi, just found your post. I'm trilled to read about your experiences. I went on the BYU Jerusalem Spring of 2000 and loved it (that's actually an understatement). I've just created my own blog www.byujerusalemspring2000/ as a tool to remince and to create a reunion trip over there in 2010. Your blogs great! I'm going to keep reading your posts and try not to cry the whole time :) Enjoy your time over there...a Jeru Crew friend...