Chief rabbis call to cancel Bible Quiz

"Choosing [messianic Jewish contestant] as a finalist in the quiz is a transgression of Halacha."

Metzger 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Metzger 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Both chief rabbis of Israel called on Tuesday to cancel the International Bible Quiz slated for the capital on Independence Day in protest against the participation of a 16-year-old girl who believes Jesus is the messiah. "Choosing her as a finalist in the International Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth is a transgression of Halacha and is a distortion of the goal and essence of the quiz," wrote Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger in a letter to Education Minister Yuli Tamir. "The Chief Rabbinate of Israel vigorously protests [the participation] of this representative... Bible quiz participants have always been Jews who believed in the Torah handed down by Moses. "The Chief Rabbinate calls to disqualify this girl from taking part in the quiz. If she is not disqualified, we call to cancel the quiz immediately. "It is unacceptable that a member of a cult that has removed itself from the Jewish faith will take part in a quiz dedicated to a book that has been holy to the Jews since their inception as a people," the rabbis wrote. Nevertheless, Tzurit Berenson, 15, from Nahariya, one of the four Israeli finalists, said that she and the other contestants intended to participate in Thursday's competition. "We asked our own rabbis what to do and they told us that we should participate," said Berenson, who added that she had taught herself the Bible and has been preparing for the quiz for years. Berenson said religious activists have been trying to discourage her and the other participants from taking part in the quiz, "but we have all decided to go ahead with it." The controversy surrounding the participation of 16-year-old Bat-El Levi, from Beersheba, began last week as a result of a campaign led by the haredi anti-missionary organization Yad Le'Achim. Yad Le'Achim discovered that Levi belonged to a messianic Jewish congregation. The organization immediately contacted rabbis and other spiritual leaders. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading religious Zionist halachic authority, called to boycott the quiz if the messianic Jew did not forfeit her participation. His call was joined by other rabbis aligned with religious Zionism, including Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu. Sources close to the Levi family, who did not deny their ties with a messianic Jewish congregation, said there had been attempts by Yad Le'Achim to dissuade Bat-El from taking part in the competition. A group of activists demonstrated in Dimona when the participants came to the Negev town for a preliminary quiz. Messianic Jews believe that Jesus is the savior yet see themselves as Jews. Tamir's representative, Lital Apter, said the minister had no intention of canceling the quiz or asking Levi not to take part. "It is too bad that on the 60th anniversary we are dealing with these sorts of things. This should be a time of celebration, not of controversy. "The point of the quiz is to check the participants' knowledge of the Bible, not to scrutinize their faith. The legal department in the Education Ministry verified that Levi is Jewish according to the criteria of the state. That's good enough for us," Apter said.