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World Bible Quiz winner: Or Ashual
17-year-old Kfar Saba girl beats 15 finalists from around the world.
Or Ashual, a 17-year-old student at the Kfar Saba Amana girls’ school, became the 2010 winner of the World Bible Quiz competition on Tuesday, which took place on Israel’s 62nd Independence Day at the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts.

The first runner-up was Elad Nachshon of the De Shalit high school in Rehovot, while third place went to Avner Netanyahu, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s 15-year-old son, who is a ninth-grader at a school in the capital. The younger Netanyahu was also the winner of last month’s National Bible Quiz.

Ashual bested 15 other finalists from all over the world, including the Americas and Australia.

The theme of this year’s competition was the revitalization of the Hebrew language, and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky recounted his personal story of first encountering the difficult Hebrew of the Bible in Soviet imprisonment – one of the challenges he overcame that provided him with strength, encouragement and inspiration.

An excited and proud Binyamin Netanyahu sat through the event with his wife, Sara, and son Yair, and presented the traditional prime minister’s question, which was handed to him after the contestants had already taken their places away from the audience, in a break from the competition’s tradition.

Both Nachshon and Avner Netanyahu are in the secular education system. Netanyahu’s maternal uncle, Hagi Ben-Artzi – who, like his two brothers, Amatzia and Matanya, is a past winner of the National Bible Quiz and a product of secular schools – pointed out to The Jerusalem Post the magnitude of the achievement, saying that it marked a return of Bible studies to a central place among the nonreligious population after some three decades of religious domination in the contest.

“I’m saluting my father here; it’s all thanks to him,” Ben-Artzi said of his own success decades ago, and of Avner Netanyahu’s Tuesday achievement. He credited his father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, with making Bible studies a central part of his children’s upbringing and continuing to instill the Bible in his grandchildren.

“[Avner and his grandfather] meet every day to study the Bible,” Hagi Ben-Artzi said.

Upon handing the first prize to Ashual, the premier acknowledged how excited he was over his son’s participation, and expressed his awe at the participants’ achievements.

“[Former prime minister] David Ben-Gurion said that the foundation of our existence here is the Bible,” Netanyahu said. “I was brought up learning the Bible; so were my brothers. The Bible is again becoming the Book of Books for all of Israel.”

Netanyahu took the opportunity to reiterate his decision to relaunch the Bible Quiz for adults after a 29-year hiatus. Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar recently announced that the event would take place this upcoming Hanukka.

“The Bible is the basis for the existence of the People of Israel and the State of Israel,” the beaming premier stressed.

“Be blessed, and bring a light to the nations,” he told the participants, in a subtle nod to the winner, whose first name, Or, means “light” in Hebrew.
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