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Bible quiz whiz
By ATARA BECK
03/05/2012
Competition winner Elhanan Bloch impressed viewers with his ability to complete biblical phrases in a heartbeat.
 
The Jewish right to the Land of Israel does not come from the British Mandate or the Balfour Declaration, declared Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar at the 49th International Bible Quiz last week; rather, he said, “the Tanach [Bible] is our mandate.”

In keeping with this, it was two students from Yeroham’s Yeshivat AMIT B’levav Shalem school, Elhanan Bloch and Avshalom Adler, who respectively won the International and National Bible quizzes.

Adler also made third place in the international competition, which is held annually on Independence Day. Akiva Abramowitz of New York came in second, having tied with Aron Goldberg of Toronto for first place in the Diaspora competition. All three boys are 17 years old.

Bible expert Dr. Avshalom Kor, the country’s foremost linguist and popular radio and television talk-show host, emceed the event, as he has been doing for the past several years. Organizing the quiz were the IDF chief education officer, the IDF Chaplaincy Corps, the Defense Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Jewish Agency and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKLJNF).

Speaking before the 16 international-competition finalists at the Jerusalem Theater, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who traditionally poses the final question, acknowledged that he understood the pressure felt not only by the contestants, but also by their families: In 2010, his son Avner won the national quiz and was second runner-up in the international contest.

“Everyone who made it at all to this stage is a champion,” he stated. He also remembered his late father in-law, Shlomo Ben-Artzi, a veteran educator and Bible teacher who died last November.

“He always knew every answer, without exception,” Netanyahu recalled.

The prime minister urged the participants to consider making aliya and to continue learning about “our history, our hopes, our prayers... all rooted in the land of the Bible. This is our land.”

Saar told the packed hall that “aliya is essential,” and that the Bible was there to remind us that we are the People of the Book and our roots lie in the Land of Israel.

“It reminds us of our common heritage and common goal,” he said, noting that many of the Israeli participants were students at state schools, both religious and secular.

Saar received enthusiastic applause when he stated that Netanyahu “gave 1,200 people and the people of Israel a holiday gift,” a reference to the government’s official approval a few days earlier of the Rehalim, Sansana and Bruchin outposts, which had existed in the West Bank for over a decade without authorization.

“We believe with all our hearts that settlement on our land is our right as well as important for national security,” he added.

The celebratory event included a film showing the capture of the Western Wall during the Six Day War, and a musical interlude.

Most of the speeches focused on the biblical message of social justice.

“Social justice stems from the Torah,” declared chief IDF Education Officer Brig.-Gen. Eli Schermeister, who quoted several relevant passages from the Five Books of Moses, the Prophets and the Writings concerning the pursuit of universal justice for all mankind.

“The Torah is for all of us, secular and religious,” he said, adding that the pioneers of the State of Israel embraced values of social justice.

“Even the Magna Carta was based on the Bible,” asserted Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky. A former Soviet refusenik, he said that when the former Soviet Union forgot about the Bible, it forgot about the rights of man.

“God has the copyright to justice,” he stated. “If you are experts in Torah, you will be experts in social justice.”

He added that more than 20,000 people had made aliya this year, and 50,000 students had attended various programs.

Bloch, who hails from the southern town of Netivot, received a scholarship for undergraduate studies at Bar-Ilan University. He told The Jerusalem Post that he was excited to have won and that he hadn’t yet decided what professional field he would pursue.

Abramowitz, meanwhile, received a scholarship to the Jerusalem College of Technology. He said he was also “very excited” and still struggling to digest the fact that he had won.

He, too, had not yet determined his focus of study, but now, having won the scholarship, he has another decision to make: whether or not to get his education outside of his native country.

The 56 international contest participants, who hailed from 24 countries, spent three days touring Israel with the KKL-JNF education and youth department.

In Adullam-France Park – a biospheric park in the Judean lowlands developed with support from friends of KKL-JNF in France – the group joined an excavation with the education center established by KKL-JNF in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority. The park covers an area of 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) and contains archeological remains from different eras, including Jewish towns from the Second Temple period, burial caves and ancient agricultural installations.

“They found it very moving to see places that they had learned about, especially the archeological excavation,” said Yirmiyahu David, director of the organization’s educational Nof Moledet (Homeland Project), who describes the area as the “Dan metropolis of the Second Temple period.”

The excursions included not only ancient sites, but also places that were significant in modern Jewish and Israeli history. For instance, the participants took a bicycle trip on the Burma Road, which was opened during the War of Independence when the enemy blocked the main road to Jerusalem. They also visited the Latrun Museum, which serves as a memorial for the fallen soldiers of the Armored Corps and includes an exhibit of military vehicles and tools from the country’s wars.

“The values represented by KKL-JNF give the youth a chance to connect to the land, to its landscapes and to our roots here,” David said. “One girl told me that these few days were more meaningful than all her years of study combined.”

Bloch had impressed the quiz viewers with his ability to answer questions and complete biblical phrases in a heartbeat, but he hesitated when the Post asked him what had touched him most deeply during the sightseeing trips. Finally he responded that visiting Ammunition Hill, the site of one of the fiercest battles of the Six Day War for the reunification of Jerusalem, had been a profound experience. Abramowitz added that participating in the KKL-JNF tours and seeing places he had learned about “right in front of my eyes” had been the experience of a lifetime.
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