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Two Israeli teens tie for first place in Jerusalem's annual International Bible Quiz on Independence Day

Winners of the 67th annual International Bible Quiz, Evyatar Bar-Gil and David Shasha (Photo: Ronen Horesh/GPO)

On Israel’s 76th Independence Day on Tuesday, Jewish teens from around the world competed in the 67th annual International Bible Quiz.

The competition held every year on Independence Day, was founded in 1958 by Aura Herzog, the late mother of President Isaac Herzog, to encourage Jewish students worldwide to reconnect with their biblical heritage.

This year, two Israeli teens tied for first place with identical scores: Evyatar Bar-Gil (17) an 11th-grade student from the Ort Pelech High School in Jerusalem, and David Shasha, also 17, a 12th-grader from the Amit Yeshiva in Kfar Ganim, Petah Tikva.

Bar-Gil attends the high school whose principal, Sergeant Major (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz was killed in November while fighting Hamas in Gaza.

The major of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, said: "I am sure that Yossi, from above, is looking down on Evyatar with excitement and pride, knowing that even now, his gracious spirit, legacy and abilities continue to manifest in the best possible way, just as he wished during his lifetime."

The yeshiva student, Shasha, told reporters he prepared for the contest with his mentor for three years.

"It is an honor to be a Bible Contest winner. Persistence and desire are the paths to success. I am grateful to God, my parents, my family, Rabbi Amitai Sar-Avi and the yeshiva for their support throughout this journey," Shasha said.

Rabbi Nitzan Berger, head of the Amit Yeshiva, commented: "We are fortunate to receive abundant satisfaction from David's impressive mastery of the Scriptures. We all learn a great lesson from David in setting goals and achieving them, all with humility and excellent moral qualities. David is a role model for his burning passion for the Bible, his precision and his thorough attention to detail. All these qualities have led him to become the International Bible Contest winner."

The second-place spot was claimed by Dov Gotthelf from the United States, while Noa Rivka Kahn – a student from the Israeli Center for Educational Excellence in Jerusalem – took third place.

The other 12 Bible Quiz finalists hailed from Israel, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Panama, Mexico and Australia.

Education Ministry Deputy Director Gur Rosenblatt told Israel Hayom before the event: "Their families showed extraordinary resilience, sending their children and expressing full confidence in Israel's ability to protect them," since the competition this year was being held during a war.

"The contest will be impactful, empowering and unifying – what the country needs now," Rosenblatt stated. "It will be a different kind of Bible contest that preserves the connection to the Bible while reflecting what's happening in Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pre-recorded address to the Bible Quiz attendees was broadcast at the beginning of the event. He congratulated the contestants and spoke about the importance of studying the Tanakh and reflected on the significance of knowing Jewish history, especially in light of the Oct. 7 terror attack.

"On Simchat Torah, we endured an event on a Biblical scale. Our enemies attacked us, exactly on the day when the people of Israel celebrate the continuity of study from Genesis and back again," he began.

"This is not new. The Tanakh teaches that even thousands of years ago we knew wars. Our forefather Avraham, our teacher Moses, Joshua, the Judges, King David and his son King Solomon – they all fought bitter enemies,” Netanyahu continued.

The Tanakh refers to the 24 books of the Jewish Bible divided into three parts – the Torah (the law), Nevi'im (the prophets) and the Ketuvim (the writings).

"Even then we did not surrender to them. Even then we did not bow our heads. The prophet Micah says: 'Though I have fallen, I shall arise.' We paid a price but we took the war to them [Hamas]. We were victorious over those who sought our ruin. With God's help, we ensured the eternity of Israel."

The prime minister emphasized that the Tanakh serves as a vital element of Jewish life, values and identity. values and drew parallels between historical calls to arms in the Books of Nehemiah and Joel and the resilience of IDF soldiers today.

"My friends, the Tanakh is the source of life for us. From it, we draw eternal values. The roots of our identity are grounded in the Tanakh, as is our right to the Land of Israel. The link to the chain of generations is based in the Book of Books."

"A direct line joins what is written in the Book of Nehemiah to the current war: 'Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses.' And here is another link, in the Book of Joel: 'Run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war.' Thanks to our heroic fighters, our state has a defensive wall," Netanyahu said, urging the contestants to continue studying and teaching from the Jewish Bible.

"I turn to you, contestants from Israel and the Diaspora; continue to spread love of the Tanakh. Continue to study. Continue to teach others."

On a personal note, Netanyahu stated: "I am always proud of you; this is also a tradition in my family. My wife Sara's father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi of blessed memory, was an educator and Tanakh teacher who imbued many generations of students with love of the Tanakh."

"Dear Shmuel turned our son Avner into a real lover of the Tanakh. Avner also participated in the Bible Quiz, this quiz, when he was 15 and a pupil at the Hebrew University Secondary School. Avner was Israel's national Bible champion and was the second runner-up to the champion in the International Quiz."

"We will all continue to draw strength and spirit from the Tanakh. We will continue to love and study the Tanakh,” Netanyahu said.

He concluded by wishing all present a Happy Independence Day and ended with the exhortation: “Be strong, be strong and let us strengthen each other."

This year, the judging panel included a relative of an IDF soldier who was killed by friendly fire.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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