Bible quiz winner to PM: Get Pollard out of jail

Tzurit Braunson presents PM with a letter asking him to secure Pollard's release.

Pollard 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Pollard 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The annual Independence Day International Bible Quiz, steeped in controversy over the participation of a "messianic Jew," went ahead as scheduled on Thursday, with Nahariya's Tzurit Braunson emerging victorious. As she was being awarded the title, the 15-year-old Bible scholar presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with a letter asking him to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard, who has serving a life sentence for espionage in the US since 1986. "I asked [Olmert] to do all that he could do to release him," Braunson said in an interview on Channel 2. But the bold move on Braunson's part was somewhat overshadowed by the week-long buildup of tension over the contest, which Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger had asked Education Minister Yuli Tamir to cancel, due to the inclusion of a messianic Jew, Bat-El Levi. The 11th-grader from Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neigborhood, who believes that Jesus is the messiah, drew the ire of rabbis last week, who said her involvement in the competition would add legitimacy to the Messianic Jewish movement. In a letter to Israel's top rabbis, the director of anti-missionary group Yad Le'ahim, Shlomo Dov Lipschitz, wrote that Levi "has a chance of becoming the world Bible champion," and that this could "greatly encourage" the spread of Christianity among Jews. Lipschitz also argued that Levi should not be considered Jewish, based on her and her family's beliefs. On Thursday, however, Levi did not advance past the first round of the quiz, allowing Braunson to take the spotlight as she beat out 14 other young scripture scholars from Israel, the US, Australia and Mexico. Facing questions on often obscure people and events in the Bible, Braunson credited faith as the key to her win. "It's not just trivia," she told Channel 2. "It's impossible to know without believing." With her name in the record books, Braunson now hopes that her appeal on Pollard's behalf will bear fruit.