Israeli wins international Bible Contest for first time in three years

Netanyahu says in speech Jews around the world can call Israel their home.

April 23, 2015 17:37
2 minute read.
bible contest

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with the 2015 International Youth Bible Contest winner Eyal Matas . (photo credit: GPO)

Eyal Matas, 15, from Rehovot, won the annual International Youth Bible Quiz in Jerusalem on Thursday, triumphing over 15 other contestants from Israel and around the world.

Matas’s victory was the first time in three years that an Israeli took first prize, after Elior Babian shared the prize with Yishai Eisenberg of Passaic, New Jersey, in 2013, and Eitan Amos of Canada won in 2014. Before 2013, there had not been a non-Israeli winner for 20 years.

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Matas currently studies at the Darchei Noam school in Petah Tikva. Yisrael Elgrabli, 17, from Jerusalem and studying at the Horev school, came in at second place; Arad Kotzer of Ashdod took third place; and in fourth was Canadian Ryan Refael-Rifsman.

The final round of the Bible Quiz was staged once again on Independence Day in the Jerusalem Theater in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and director-general of the Education Ministry Michal Cohen.

In total, 83 competitors from 33 countries participated in this year’s competition, which began in January, over four rounds before Thursday’s final.

Sixteen competitors from seven countries battled it out in the final through a series of highly specialized questions on the events and characters of the Bible, with four participants from Israel, three each from Canada, the US and Mexico, and one each from South Africa, Panama and Belarus.

Speaking at the event, Netanyahu lauded the participation of Jews from so many countries around the world, saying that Israel could not have survived without the immigration of Jews from the Diaspora.

“This is the foundation of Zionism, which engraved on its flag the return to Zion and sees Israel as the home of all the world’s Jews,” the prime minister said.

“It is totally clear today that this is home, this is the place where a Jew can walk in the street and say ‘I am a Jew, Je suis Juif’,” he continued, referring to the Paris attacks in which employees of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper and members of the city’s Jewish community were murdered in terrorist attacks in January. This does not abrogate the responsibility of different governments around the world to take care of the security concerns of their Jewish citizens, but we say to the Jews of the world, ‘this is home, this is our home, this is your home.’”

The prime minister went on to say that Zionism took the idea of the ingathering of exiles from the Bible, adding that each separate wave of immigration had contributed in different ways to Israeli society and calling on the participants from abroad to immigrate with their families.

“It is from the visions of the prophets for ingathering the dispersed people of Israel to their historic homeland, from East to West, North to South. These prophecies are coming true before our eyes.

“I call on you... go home and tell of your experience during your visit to Israel and of this quiz and, afterwards, I request, come back to us, to the Land of Israel. Come to the State of Israel. We are waiting for you with open arms.”

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