NOTE: This is the first of several feature stories on members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their various activities. A special section in advance of General Conference will be in Thursday's Standard-Examiner.
Growing up in Ogden in the late 1960s, Jeffrey Chadwick became fascinated by a news event that not only caught his attention but also shaped his career as a professor of biblical archaeology.
It wasn't Vietnam. It wasn't NASA going to the moon. It wasn't the civil rights movement.
It was a short war that still has ramifications to this day.
"I was 12 years old in 1967. It was June, and we were just out of school," said Chadwick, speaking from the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center during a phone interview.
"Sometimes there was just nothing to do. There were only three channels on TV and no video games. All of a sudden, we got reports about a war going on in the Middle East -- a war in this place called Israel and its Arab neighbors. Remarkably, Israel won that war in six days."
Israeli forces had captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem. Israel's territory had increased by a factor of three. The forces hadn't planned for that much success. Israel had responded to military buildups by its Arab neighbors. Two, Egypt and Jordan, now officially recognize Israel.
"As a 12-year-old, I was impressed," Chadwick said. "There is actually a place in the world called Israel, and they can win a war in six days. As a junior-high kid, I remember having an interest in this exotic place in the Middle East."
He also remembers being drawn to the tragedy of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, when terrorists killed Israeli athletes. This event took place during Chadwick's senior year at Ben Lomond High School and was followed by a 1973 war, when Israel repelled attacks by Syria and Egypt. The Arab oil embargo also was in place from October 1973 to March 1974.
His interest in these events followed Chadwick to Weber State University, BYU and then the University of Utah. His WSU bachelor's degree focused on the politics of the Middle East.
Chadwick then studied the region's vast history to earn a BYU master's degree in historical geography and a doctorate in archaeology from U of U. He learned German on his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and picked up Hebrew both during his studies and by meeting with a Jewish congregation in Ogden.
Chadwick also is a familiar name to many members of the LDS Church in the Top of Utah. He taught seminary at several area high schools, at the Ogden Institute of Religion and at BYU in Provo. He taught his first classes in Jerusalem in 1982.
Back to the past
Chadwick's enthusiasm for the Middle East picks up even more when he is asked about his archaeology work. He spends time each year working in an area many believe was the home of Goliath. He currently is senior field archaeologist with the Telles- Safi/Gath Archaeological Project in Israel, where he directs excavations in Area F. From a distance, it looks like a few holes in a dusty hillside.
"Our work is much more mundane (than, say, Indiana Jones), carefully excavating wih trowels and brushes -- recording, drawing and photographing," Chadwick said. "It's exciting, but it is intellectually exciting.
"It's not running-from-the-Nazis adventures, but it is the adventures of the mind and the adventure of discovery. It's not at all like Indiana Jones. We think it's better. That's what I tell people."
He reminds others that the objective of his biblical archaeology work is not to offer proof of events in the Old Testament, "but it is an aspect ... that sheds light on the Bible. There is no attempt to prove the Bible, but to understand the writings of the Bible better."
"(The) archaeology (here) confirms the authenticity of biblical record of what we call the Book of Kings," Chadwick said. "That doesn't mean that it proves the Bible's prophecies and miracles are correct. Archaeology can't address miracles, and it can't address prophecy."
Politics then, too
Chadwick said some books of the Old Testament -- Kings, for example -- are written from a political viewpoint, such as "Israel good. Philistines bad." With his studies at Gath, he said, he wouldn't be surprised to learn there is a record from the Philistines saying, "Israel bad. Philistines good."
Israel has a long history of disputes with its neighbors that continues to this day. Chadwick said Israel's differences with the Palestinians are often overstated.
Palestinians, Israelis today
"The great secret about Israel is that the Palestinians and Israelis get along better than anyone suspects," Chadwick said. "Every day of the year over here, 8 million people wake up and make it through the day without killing each other and, in fact, mostly cooperating with each other."
Chadwick sees a lot of interaction between the two groups.
"Israelis work with Palestinians in all corners of Jerusalem. Palestinians shop in Israeli stores and work in Israeli stores and restaurants. Israeli Jews on the weekend go to the Arab quarter of the old city and sit in Palestinian restaurants eating hummus," he said. "It is an amazing thing. For the amount of conflict you have here, for the number of people you have here, and the number of days in the year, it is remarkably small.
"I think that will eventually lead to an agreement on how they can come together and live together as two states," Chadwick said.
The professor's political knowledge of the Middle East goes beyond the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He also knows a lot about Egypt, having taken 28 trips to the country.
The most recent covered the day the protests started against Hosni Mubarak's government.
The trip went essentially as planned for students, with the exception of not stopping at the central museum in Cairo. The scenario that ensued until Mubarak stepped down didn't surprise Chadwick.
"The army in Egypt is essentially an extension of the public in general, whereas the army in Libya is a force (Moammar) Gadhafi has installed and controls himself," Chadwick said. "In Egypt, although it was the students and some of the public that started the demonstrations, it was really the army apparatus that told Mubarak, 'You have to go.'"
So far, Chadwick sees the political unrest in the area as just that -- political.
"A lot of the protests come from the younger people and mainly middle class who hadn't seen a lot for their future. They really didn't see any democratic apparatus that would give them a voice."
Chadwick said that attitude has been simmering for many years in the Middle East.
"What suprised me is that they actually moved forward and did something about it."
Israel has been keeping a close eye on the events involving its Arab neighbors.
At the time of the interview, Chadwick said the price of gas in Israel was about 8 shequels a liter. A shequel roughly equals 28 to 30 cents. Chadwick said that comes to about $8 per gallon of gas, which is the highest price he has seen there. Most of Israel's gas comes from Mexico.
"The Jerusalem Center tries to be friends to everyone and politically neutral in the controversial issues," he said. "As Jerusalem Center faculty, that is something that we are careful of, is to make sure students appreciate everyone."
The center has lectures regularly from Israeli and Islamic scholars.
"We don't proselytize here, so we aren't perceived as a threat by the Jewish or Islamic community," he said. "The Jerusalem Center is now considered an established institution by Palestinians and Israelis alike."
7,000 miles from home
It is nearly 7,000 miles from Ogden to Jerusalem. Chadwick has had family with him most of the time during his stays at Jerusalem, but that isn't always possible.
"My wife (Kim) is normally here with me on my teaching assignments. At the current time, my youngest daughter is a student in the BYU Jerusalem Center program," he said. Others of his older children, now adults, have participated in the program in the past.
"It is always a challenge to be away from your extended family, including adult children with children of their own -- our grandkids -- but these are the types of sacrifices we all make to serve in both professional and religious assignments."