Daily protests are continuing in front of the municipal building by members of Yad Le Achim, an anti-missionary group, who are demanding that the construction of the Jerusalem extension of the Mormon Brigham Young University be halted. The group charges that the university would serve as a center for missionary activities.
Earlier this month, Prof. Jeffrey Holland, the president of the university, submitted a written pledge to Mayor Teddy Kollek that there would be no missionary activity in the educational center it is constructing next to the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus. But Holland’s efforts to convince the Israeli public that the center would serve only as an academic institution have been greeted with skepticism by many Israelis.
Sources in the mayor’s office said today that Holland’s written pledge apparently was not sufficient to allay anxieties over the possibility that the center might in fact become the focal point for missionary activities. They said that the Knesset Interior Committee unofficially demanded a $1 million guarantee to back up the pledge — a demand which was rejected by Holland.
City officials are now saying that Holland’s pledge was merely a gesture of good will, and not necessarily binding by law, as the authorities had no legal means of halting the construction of the multi-million dollar project on Mt. Scopus. The university had received all the necessary building permits as well as recommendations by the Foreign and Education ministries.
The construction of the Mormon center has been under large-scale attack by Orthodox circles, including the two Chief Rabbis, who have warned that its real purpose was to try to convert Jews.
The construction of the center was approved in 1977 by the Likud government of Premier Menachem Begin, and by the Jerusalem municipality. Located on five acres of land, the center will contain housing and catering services for nearly 200 students, as well as classrooms and an auditorium. According to Dr. Ellis Rasmussen, former Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, the purpose of the center was to enable Mormon students to get to know Israel.
REPORT CALLED RIDICULOUS
Meanwhile, a city official said a report published in some American Jewish newspapers that the Jerusalem Foundation has a financial interest in a Mormon corporation was “incitement to violence.” According to the report, the Mormons acquired their permission to build the center by making large contributions of company shares to the Jerusalem Foundation, which is headed by Kollek. Municipal spokesman Rafi Dabara said the report was “absolutely ridiculous.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.