Ruth Cohen wins socially-distanced International Bible Quiz for Youth 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Cohen and the rest of the competitors, and spoke of the centrality of the Bible to the Jewish people.

Ruth Cohen and her parents with the Head of the Shafir Regional Council Adir Neeman (photo credit: SHAFIR REGIONAL COUNCIL)
Ruth Cohen and her parents with the Head of the Shafir Regional Council Adir Neeman
Ruth Cohen, an 11th grader in the city of Gedara, won this year’s International Bible Quiz for Youth on Wednesday morning, triumphing over the other 15 contestants from Israel and around the world.
In second place was Moshe Glidai from Kfar Etzion. Haim Natan Shildes from the US came in third, and Miriam Sharam from Mexico finished in fourth place.
The international contestants competed remotely from their home countries due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the four Israeli competitors were present on location in Jerusalem, although without the presence of the audience.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Cohen and the rest of the competitors, and spoke of the centrality of the Bible to the Jewish people.
“The Book of books is the source of our eternal values, which sustains us as a people: love of one's fellow man, love of the land, the ingathering of the exiles, heroism, righteousness and morality,” said Netanyahu.
“Even in the time of the coronavirus, we are drawing strength. In the current epidemic, the eternity of Israel will overcome, as Jeremiah said: ‘Behold, I will bring healing and cure.’ This is what the generation of those who built this country who fought fever and malaria and marshes and enemies did.”
Education Minister Rafi Peretz, Knesset Speaker and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, and Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Isaac Herzog were all present and addressed the contestants during the course of the event.  
As always, the contestants were peppered with questions about every book of the Hebrew Bible, and were asked about the prophets, judges and kings of Israel, the events of their lives and the timeless words they spoke as recorded in the scriptures.
The questions posed ranged from the letters sent by King Hezekiah to the Jewish people telling them to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, to the plague of locusts recorded in the Book of Joel.
Batsheva Schwab of London was quizzed about the war between Israel and Aram, while Kayla Sifris from Cape Town was asked why King David fled Jerusalem when faced with the rebellion led by his son Avshalom.
Speaking to the contestants, Peretz noted the unusual circumstances of the competition this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of mutual responsibility among the Jewish people to overcome the challenge it presents.
“Because of this wonderful mutual responsibility which exists in the different parts of society, we see the care and the amazing devotion, assistance and volunteerism everywhere,” said Peretz.
“Your participation in the quiz from all corners of the earth gives expression to the deep connection of the Jewish people wherever they are,” the minister continued.
And Gantz talked about the Bible as the foundational basis of the Jewish people.
“For us, the Bible is not just a religious or educational text but rather a source of historical power,” adding that the event “is a bridge which demonstrates the power of the connection between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.”
Some criticism was raised during the event towards host Dr. Avshalam Kor, who made several derogatory references to living outside of Israel.
Kor said of one of the international contestants who had a rather sombre expression on his face: “What does he have to smile about, he lives in exile [abroad].”
Of a delay in the video connection with another contestant abroad, Kor said “everything goes slower in the exile, not like here.”
Shira Ruderman, the CEO of the Ruderman Family Foundation, and Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation, thanked the education minister for holding the Bible Quiz even during the coronavirus outbreak, but expressed sorrow that Kor used the stage to "speak disparagingly to the youth who represent various communities from around the world."
The Rudermans called on Peretz to denounce the comments made by Kor and make it clear that the Ministry of Education has strengthened it's ties with Diaspora Jews.
The foundation pointed out the above comments made by Kor. Additionally, the State of Israel has traditionally referred to communities outside of the state as "Yahadut HaTefutzot" (Diaspora Jewry). Kor referred to them as "Yahadut HaGolah" (Exile Jewry).
Kor "remarked not just once or twice about the participants and the places they're from in a patronizing and disrespectful manner that did not suit his position," said the Rudermans.
"The statements hurt not just the participants and their families, but millions of Jews who themselves marked the festivities of Israel's 72nd Independence Day, with a great love for the land, State and people," said the foundation. "There is no doubt that Dr. Avshalom Kor gave and gives a lot to Israel and the Jewish people in many fields, but that does not justify his hurtful behavior."
Speaking during the event, Herzog said that “loving one's fellow as oneself,” was a critical value during today’s trying times, and said that the International Bible competition shows “how deep the love of fellow Jews is in the State of Israel and among Jewish communities around the world.”
The Jewish Agency chairman said that, “Like Noah in his ark, we are all sitting at home waiting for the dove to come with an olive leaf. We are all sitting in one ark. The ark of the land, the ark of all the faiths, and the denominations among us; the ark of community and neighborhood, the ark of the street and our families.”