Eitan Amos, an 18-year-old high-school student from Toronto, won the annual International Youth Bible Contest in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
Tefilla Berenson, from Rehovot, came in second place in the finals, and Itamar Khalifa came third.
The previous round of the competition saw 75 contestants from 33 countries vying, stretching from Australia to Belgium, Turkey to Brazil, and many places in between.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in attendance, as was Education Minister Shai Piron, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and other dignitaries.
Speaking to the 16 finalists at the beginning of the contest, Piron called on them to make the Bible their “conscience and compass.”
“The Bible is not meant for the bookshelf, but rather should be in your backpacks, when you explore the Land of Israel and walk its length and breadth,” said Piron, who is also an Orthodox rabbi.
“Take it with you to work, and learn the laws of fair trade. Come home with it and learn how important it is to respect your parents, and how terrible is a civil war.
Go to the street corners, meet there “the other” who is afraid to walk in the spotlight and learn from the Bible how to treat a stranger, widow and orphan,” the minister continued.
Piron said that the Education Ministry of was doing “everything possible to connect the Bible to people’s hearts, to make it a way of life, and to give it a place of honor at the times when the identity of Israeli youth is being shaped and formulated.”
The winner, Amos, studies in Or Haim High School in Toronto and is the first Canadian to win the competition, although he lived in Israel (in Kedumim) until age 11. He will be attending a yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim next year.
In a series of rounds over the past week, the contestants participated in a succession of tests which whittled down their numbers to the final 16 candidates, which included four Israelis.
This year was the second year in a row in which a non-Israeli won the contest, after Yishai Eisenberg from Passaic, New Jersey, shared the prize with Israeli Elior Babian in 2013, the first time in 20 years that there had been a non-Israeli winner.
Netanyahu, who presented Amos with the trophy, asked the traditional prime minister’s question.
Before he did so, he commented jokingly on the state of the rule of law in Israel, by mentioning that when his own son Avner was a finalist in 2010, he incorrectly answered the prime minister’s question, asked by his father.
“This wouldn’t happen in a proper country, Syria for example,” Netanyahu quipped.
“The Bible is not just the foundation of our existence, it also the foundry that ignites the flame of Zionism in everything that we do in the State of Israel,” the prime minister said.
“The return to Zion, the ingathering of the exiles, the revival of the Hebrew language, our steadfastness against our enemies, the creation of a successful society, and the building of the country in the hope for peace, and the hope to strengthen our future above all else” was built on Israel’s connection to the Bible, Netanyahu said.