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By Selena Stevens

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"I went there with the idea of the country that we get from television. People fighting and constantly at war.   But it turned out to be a lot like America."

-- UK student government President James H. "Jimmy" Glenn

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Nov. 10, 2000 – (Lexington, Ky.) – Everyday life and the news in Israel are more like America than you’d think. That’s what University of Kentucky Student Government President James H. “Jimmy” Glenn learned during his recent visit to the country, often a hotbed of political and religious unrest.

“I went there with the idea of the country we get from television. People fighting and constantly at war,” said Glenn, a civil engineering senior who is UK’s first African-American student body president. “But it turned out to be a lot like America. You can venture into a McDonald’s for a burger, the landscape is beautiful, and the people are really normal, just like the average American.”

Glenn visited Israel recently, along with 15 other university student body presidents from the American Midwest, West and South. The students were selected to take part in a nine-day travel seminar organized by Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee.

“It was a great experience. I learned so much,” Glenn said. “You hear so much about this region, but you cannot fully appreciate it until you experience the culture.”

Held in Israel from Aug. 1 to 11, the intensive seminar offers participants an overview of Israeli society and the many challenges facing it. The program included meetings with government officials, academic experts and journalists and explored issues relating to national politics, the Middle East peace process and the U.S.-Israel relationship. The student body presidents met with Jewish and Arab student leaders and discussed matters of concern on university campuses. Glenn said meeting such a diverse group of people helped him gain a new perspective.

“The fighting and war is always a problem. There is a threat to them daily,” he said. “Even though they realize that, they put that in the back of their minds and try to live their lives as normally as they can.”

Visiting local malls, Glenn said he and the other student presidents were shocked to see local people of their ages dressed in military attire. In Israel, young adults serve in the army before attending college.

      “To them, it’s no big deal. That’s what’s needed,” Glenn said. “You do that first, then you can go to college. Seeing that makes you understand and appreciate their lives and perspective.”

Project Interchange’s broad-based, balanced program included visits to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank. The delegation met with a representative of the Palestinian Authority and with community leaders at an Arab village in northern Israel. In addition, the group spent time in the Golan Heights, at an absorption center for new immigrants and at Christian holy sites near the Sea of Galilee and in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Glenn was joined by student body presidents from universities in Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. He is the son of Jim and Cornelia Glenn of Owensboro and is a graduate of Apollo High School in Owensboro.

Project Interchange is a non-profit, non-political organization funded by private individuals and foundations. The goal of Project Interchange travel seminars is to provide the opportunity for America’s political, civic, ethnic and religious leaders to experience Israel firsthand. The American Jewish Committee, America’s oldest human relations organization, works to combat bigotry and to promote pluralism and tolerance in the United States and abroad. Launched in August 1994, the annual student leadership seminar is underwritten by Stanford M. Adelstein of Rapid City, S.D., with support from The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation of Tulsa, Okla.

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