Only when original Hummus, roasted cutlets and Kebab were served to the table, did the young students raise their heads from their books. Each one held under their shoulder a Bible, from which they study at every moment, but they finally put it down when they arrived. These are the competitors at the Bible Quiz held in Jerusalem on Israel's 66th Independence Day.
Jewish youth from around the world, came together today (April 29), in the city of Or Yehuda, to prepare for the Bible Quiz hosting Jewish youth from the Diaspora, selected to partake in the annual event in Jerusalem. Here, the Bible Quiz continuous long into the night. Those who are selected join a group to take part in the event in front of a panel of judges and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where he will ask "the Prime Minister's question." And then, finally, a world winner will be announced.
The Bible Quiz is organized by the Educational corps of the IDF, in cooperation with The Ministry of Education, KKL-JNF, The Jewish Agency, and other organizations. Since its establishment, Jewish Agency representatives in communities abroad have been central in encouraging young participants from overseas to participate in the international event taking place in Jerusalem. The quiz in Or Yehuda takes place before the big event, and includes only Diaspora participants, qualifying the next level of contestants for the final round in Jerusalem.
Director of the Ministry of Education Department in Or Yehuda municipality, Tamar Hakimi, said: "The choice of Or Yehuda as a host for the contest reflects that this is a city of olim (immigrants) and since its establishment, has been a mosaic of diversity representing Israeli society."
This year is the first time the international contest will also host a competitor from Croatia. And there are some interesting Israeli competitors as well – one of them Tamar Jinely (16), from Makif Daled in Ashdod. She has in the past won three Israeli Chess Championships, and participated in four European ones. When meeting her, you realize how quick and smart this young woman is - a chess champion for eight years already. "I am the spokesperson of the Students and Youth Council at my school, and I volunteer at the Latet organization," she says.
"My story with the Bible is strange. Before the contest, I never liked Bible lessons. I come from a traditional family and was born in Israel, but my parents came from Georgia when they were in their 30s. I don't like the way the Bible is taught at school. I think everything started when I saw an ad about the quiz at school and took interest in it. All my friends who already did their matriculation exams in Bible studies, told me I wouldn’t succeed, because I major in the scientific fields: physics mathematics and not Bible. Because I'm strongly science oriented, I thought the Bible would be less appealing to me, but somewhere along my studying process this became more than just a challenge – I fell in love with the stories. And I won 5th place at the nationals. People around me were shocked and impressed, and this year I decided I'm not going to prove anything, but just deepen the knowledge I acquired, and I know the most important experience I got this year, was in the way I think and present myself to others. When I was asked why I'm participating in a contest that "bores me", this year I could happily and truthfully say I enjoy it. Many secular people think the Bible does not have anything to do with them, but it rather belongs to religious people. This is a prejudice that I personally work towards changing, because I connected to the Bible from a very humane place, as a person, to its morals, lessons, and values. It's a shame that people see the Bible as an enemy rather than in our favor."
Tamar laughs: "What are my odds? 1-16. I'm very mathematical, and I personally do the best I can. I know I came from a disadvantaged stand point and had much more to learn than religious competitors. I had gaps to fill with information that religious people have already learned. I think I have a fair chance, and it's important to give a fair fight and show that also religious people can study the Bible, and it's important to me to prove I'm good. I will do my best so that everyone will see no one person owns the bible. I think that’s the main message, and that nothing is impossible, and even though the Bible looks like an enigma, you just have to reach out and touch it."
Shlomo Savovich, (18), Toronto, Canada, tell his story: "My sister Rivkah participated in the Bible Quiz, and I was jealous of her. She learned the Bible, and in the same year, I came fourth in Canada's national bible contest. Then I realized I should also study the Bible, and most of the time I did and Torah studies."
What were your impressions from Israel?
"My visit and tours here were so important. We walked on the Old City walls of Jerusalem, and saw before us the verses from the Bible. I realize what the Bible is for the Jewish People, and what it means to be Jewish..."
When I speak with Eduard Lichtig (15) from Australia and Shani Saidof (16), I ask them who will win. Shlomo Savovich bets on Amos from Canada ("he lived eight years in Israel and came to Canada)";or Itamar Kalifa from Israel, because "he studies everyday."
Tzofia Freudenshtein is also excited about her chance to participate in the event – as her father once did in the 70's. "His name is David, and I am happy to be continuing his tradition of Bible studies and visiting Israel."