ANorthern York school board member said he wasn't sure if a potential Palestinian exchange student harbored anti-American sentiments.

But for a while last week it seemed Michael Brandt and another board member, Greg Hlatky, might be ready to instill some in the young man.

Brandt said he raised concerns during a July 16 committee meeting about 15-year-old Rami Amjad Yahya's application to attend classes at Northern High School during the coming school year.

In the country of origin section on the application, Rami stated he's from "the occupied territory of Ramallah" instead of the West Bank, which has seen fighting between Palestinians and Israelis over decades.

Brandt wondered if that meant Rami would bring anti-American or anti-Israeli sentiment to the district.

By Thursday's board meeting -- after the local media reported on the issue and the national media expressed interest -- he said he had a change of heart.

That occurred after administrators answered some questions about Rami, Brandt said.

"I didn't know anything about him," he said. "I don't know what's in anyone's heart."

No, Brandt didn't.

And he still doesn't.

One has to actually meet someone for that to happen.

That's the point of the Youth For Understanding USA exchange program, which for more than 60 years "has helped students all over the globe find themselves, expand their world and discover intercultural opportunities through studying abroad," according to its website.


Yes, Rami comes from a troubled region; that doesn't mean he himself is troubled or that he holds any ill will toward us.

The fact he wants to study here simply shows a desire for a greater understanding of our country.

That's something that works both ways and is obviously needed.

"I think there is a great opportunity for this student from Palestine to share his experience here," said Fred Smeltzer, a Spring Grove resident who was among a group of supporters at Thursday's school board meeting.

The board unanimously approved Rami's application; he'll join the 11th-grade class when classes start this fall.

We hope Brandt and Hlatky make a point of meeting him.

Maybe they'll learn a thing or two, as well.