Private Refael Meyuchas, 24, from Netanya, is the winner of the renewed National Bible Quiz for Adults, presided over in Jerusalem this week by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Saar.
The contest, held on Tuesday in Binyanei HaUmah Convention Center, marked the renewal, after 30 years, of a tradition that enamored Israelis for years – until, for reasons not clear, it came to an abrupt halt. At the same time, the annual International Bible Quiz for Teenagers has continued until now without a break, and has even increased in popularity.
Israel’s Bible Quiz for Adults was held every three years or so from 1958 until 1981. The first contest was broadcast live on national radio. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, a known lover of the Bible who held a weekly Bible class in his home, excitedly awarded the title of National Bible Champion to Amos Chacham, who rose from humble obscurity to become a national celebrity and later co-edited the classic “Daat Mikra” Bible series.
Netanyahu, speaking at this week’s event, recalled the first Bible Quiz with nostalgia: “I was a boy at the time, and the streets of Jerusalem were empty so that everyone could listen to it on the radio. The afternoon newspapers came out with a second edition with excited reports. The entire country embraced the winner, Amos Chacham, and the newspapers competed over the right to interview him. I sometimes miss those days…”
It was apparently former President Yitzchak Navon’s idea to renew the Adult Quiz, and he suggested it to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who agreed in principle but did not carry it out. When Netanyahu took office, he took it upon himself to implement the idea, via the Education Ministry and Minister Gideon Saar.
Hundreds of people attended the latest edition of the Adults Bible Quiz. Though over 2,000 people originally applied to take part, including some in their 80’s, only 14 finalists remained for the final contest – the oldest of whom was 55 years old. The MC of the event was popular Hebrew linguist Avshalom Kor.
“We must admit that we have sinned vis—a-vis the Bible,” Minister Saar said. “In general, our students in the past were much closer to the Bible than those of today. Our objective now is to arouse interest in and study of the Bible.”
The last round was between Meyuchas and Yona Rosenberg of Shaalvim. Meyuchas correctly answered ten questions, one more than Rosenberg, and was crowned the Bible “Groom” of Israel.
Kor, asked to explain his affinity to the Bible, said, “The answer is love. Maimonides’ Laws of Bible Study appears in what he named the Book of Love. Bible means love for me, and I never studied one day in a religious institution - though we sent our children, though, to religious schools, so that they would know more. I’m here out of love. It’s a great privilege to be involved in this, and I feel strong bonds with the contestants from the minute I see them.”