On Thursday April 19 almost 50 students aged nine to 15 from all over Jerusalem came together, head to head, in a battle of words: a spelling bee. Each was asked to spell different words in English, and once a word was spelled wrong, they were eliminated. Divided into two groups - grades four to six and grades seven to nine - they all had a chance to spell words tailored to their level. Younger grade words included "receive," "camouflage" and "unnecessary." The younger group's contest ground to a halt when students stopped being eliminated, so the final two contestants were both awarded first prize. In the older level, there were clear first, second and third place awards. The bee was organized by the Education Ministry and the American Center, which work together on many different projects, including arranging American speakers to talk at schools on American civil rights or literature. Every July they hold a six-day high school teachers seminar, for Israeli Arab and Jewish teachers, that features speakers from the US. The goal of their partnership is to bring all sectors of Israeli society together and to improve English speaking in Israel. The children were chosen from those currently studying in classes for native English speakers. The spelling bee organizers worked with both religious and secular schools within Jerusalem, hoping to bridge cultural and educational gaps. The contest itself was the culmination of the internal bees held by the 19 individual schools involved. Each school sent its three top spellers to represent it at the main bee. Doron Hoffmann, 12, from TALI Bayit Vagan School, said he wanted to see how good a speller he really was. Despite not doing as well as he hoped, he still was glad he participated because it was a good experience. He did say that although there were "minor kinks with the organization," he still had a lot of fun. "The bee was a huge success, and will definitely happen again next year, hopefully increasing in size," said judge Jackie Stein of the American Center. She also added that although she works specifically in Jerusalem, spelling bees are gaining momentum all over the country, and hopefully are set to become a nationwide occurrence.

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