Presidents of several US universities were impressed with their Israeli counterparts during a trip to Israel last week and have agreed to further cooperative efforts. The group wrapped up its visit Sunday night. The presidents of the University of California system, the University of Michigan, the University of Indiana, and American University all took part this past week in a trip sponsored by the American Jewish Committee's "Project Interchange." The group toured the country's major universities, met with policy makers such as Education Minister Yuli Tamir and others, as well as PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. The presidents were impressed by Fayad's professionalism and knowledge. They felt a kinship with him, they said, because he is also a professor of economics. The visitors made contacts in regards to forming future cooperative efforts and promised to follow up via Project Interchange. University of California President Mark Yudoff lauded the universities for maintaining their high academic level despite severe budget shortfalls. "We were amazed at the high level of the universities and research centers in Israel despite their difficult financial status. We learned a lot about the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and we plan to expand our collaborative efforts between Israeli and American institutions, with a special emphasis on student exchange programs. I think it is very important that American students come to Israel and learn about it, and am therefore happy to take part in any project which advances those kinds of initiatives," he said. The group was specifically impressed by the research institutes at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Eran Lerman, head of the AJC's Middle East Division, stressed the importance of such educational missions. "This was a visit of great importance at a time when we must stand guard - the war on the campuses all over the world is one of the main issues which the AJC deals with, in light of attempts to isolate Israel (such as attempts by British academia), incitement, and even harassment of Jewish students," he said. Meanwhile, a delegation from the University of Florida arrived Monday under the auspices of the Jewish Agency's "Masa" program to discuss collaborations, as well.