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Two students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have won the International Debating Competition in Vancouver.
The Jerusalem institution is now atop the 2007 debating rankings thanks to Elchanan Miller and Ra'anan Eichler, who won in the category of English as a second language.
The competition ealier this month was the largest one to date, featuring 100 participants from 10 different countries around the world.
Both Miller and Eichler have been taking part in competitions around Israel and internationally for three years, including the 2005 European competition in Cork, Ireland, as well as the 2006 European competition in Berlin.
"The debate team at the Hebrew University is the oldest and the best club in Israel," Miller said. "We usually have one debate a week and practice for about three hours. Then we have a social event or a dinner."
The debate team is a social body within the student association. Participants do not receive credits for the extra-curricular activity. "We do it because we love it" Miller said.
At the competition in Vancouver, the Israeli team matched wits with some of the best schools in the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe and Asia.
The style of the competition was in the traditional British Parliamentary style, where four groups debate among each other. They present a pro and con stance and are given 15 minutes to debate their perspective. The topics given are usually legislative suggestions or potential laws regarding politics, society, international relations and economic issues.
The issues they debated included banning plastic surgery, whether citizenship should be automatically given in exchange for military service, Quebecois Separatism and the need for a regime change in Myanmar (formerly Burma)
In the final round the Israelis were matched up against a team from India, one from Malaysia and one from Latvia on a topic very familiar to Israelis: whether or not politicians have the right to privacy.
"Due to their hard work and dedication, the debating program at the Hebrew University has grown and gained recognition as one of the top programs in the world alongside Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and Cambridge," a university spokesperson said.
The last time the Hebrew University team won was in 2003, in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
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