Chiawana grad on lockdown at Jerusalem study center

By Geoff Folsom Tri-City HeraldJuly 3, 2014 

Chiawana High graduate Brad Barber at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

COURTESY BRAD BARBER

A 2011 Chiawana High School graduate is on lockdown in Jerusalem, where tensions have been high after several killings.

Brad Barber, 21, has been in the Middle East since April 29 as part of a four-month study program with the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center, said his mother, Shannon Barber of Richland.

His group was returning from a trip to Jordan when she told him about the growing unrest in the region.

"I said, 'I don't know if they are going to let you back in to Jerusalem,' " Shannon said. "He said, 'Why not?' "

The longtime conflict between Israelis and neighboring Palestinians flared up again when three Israeli teenagers were abducted in the West Bank on June 12. Their bodies were found earlier this week after a massive manhunt.

The BYU students did make it back to the center, but were put on lockdown after returning from the airport. According to a statement on the center's website, student travel has been restricted through Saturday night.

"The center is safe and hasn't been directly affected by the situation," the statement said. "Jerusalem Center administration and security personnel will continue to monitor the situation closely."

Shannon Barber spoke to her son again late Thursday. She said Brad, a junior at BYU in Provo, Utah, held the phone up so she could hear pro-Palestinian protesters in a nearby park chanting what sounded like, "War!"

An Israeli crackdown in the West Bank on the militant Islamist group Hamas, which Israel blamed for the kidnapping and slayings of the three Jewish teenagers, has been accompanied by a stepped-up cycle of rocket salvos and Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, according to the McClatchy news service.

The situation escalated after the burned body of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir was found in a forest Wednesday after he was seized near his home in east Jerusalem. Palestinians accused Israeli extremists of killing him in retaliation for the deaths of the Israeli youths.

The BYU students can see everything happening in Jerusalem from the center atop Mount Scopus, which overlooks the city, Shannon said.

Students have been locked down several times in the past, but Shannon said they were only sent home because of conflict once in 2001.

Shannon said her husband asked their son, who was salutatorian of his senior class, if he was going to bed Thursday night.

"He said, 'No. This is history,' " she said.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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