Yonatan Weissman with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he won the World Bible Contest on Independence Day, 2019..
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The International Bible Contest for Youth at the Jerusalem Theater on Thursday was won by 12th-grader Yonatan Weissman from Yeshivat Yerushalayim in Nehalim, beating out 15 other finalists from Israel and around the globe.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog were just a few of the prominent figures who attended the event, which was given the theme this year of “Guarding unity, guarding uniqueness.”
In second place was Binyamin Kalhamiro from Kushner Yeshiva in New Jersey, while third place was taken by Yarin Bar from Revivim in the Negev, and in fourth place was Adar Geller from Jerusalem.
The competition is an annual event held on Independence Day that brings together dozens of Jewish youths between the ages of 14 and 18 from around the world to test their knowledge on the Bible.
The youths spent two-and-a-half weeks at a “Bible camp,” in which they traveled Israel, learned about its history and met with several government officials, including Netanyahu.
The contestants were, as is traditional, asked about the smallest details of the many events that take place in the Hebrew Bible, and are quizzed on every book it contains.
Questions this year spanned the breadth of the Bible, from Jacob’s concern for the descent of his son to Egypt, to the prophet Samuel’s search for a new king at the house of Jesse and the concern voiced by Nehemiah from his position in the Diaspora in Babylon for his brethren in the Land of Israel, a topical question if ever there was one.
Weissman, along with the 15 other finalists, defeated another 74 contestants in the earlier rounds who came from over 30 countries, from Latin America to Europe and from Canada and the US to Australia.
Bennett gave the traditional speech delivered by the education minister at the opening of the event and talked about the challenges facing both Israel and the Diaspora.
“The State of Israel has experienced the most prosperous and successful era it has known, but during these very days, one of the greatest disasters in the history of the Jewish people is taking place – we are losing millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,” said Bennett.
“Like an iceberg melting away, so many of our people are slipping away before our eyes,” he continued, and said that “the State of Israel must act, without delay, with all our strength, creativity and determination, in order to save our brothers and sisters, members of the Jewish people around the world, from assimilation and antisemitism.”
He also talked of the danger of division and dispute within Israel and the historic danger this has posed to the Jewish people.
“Until now, in all of its 3,800 years, Israel has never succeeded in overcoming the eighth decade as a country that is both a sovereign and united state,” Bennett.
“If Israel is torn from within once more, if we raise our hands at one another again, we will not receive another chance. It is in our hands.”
Also speaking at the event was Herzog, who said, “In this day and age, we tend to say that ‘every man has a name.’ I want to tell you today that each person has a Bible. Every one of us is a chapter in the Book, but our strength, as we know, is within the entirety of the story, together.”
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