Four students from the Maaleh HaTorah Boys School have been crowned World Thinking Games Champions.

The 5th- and 6th-graders took part in the Thinking Games Olympics in Lisbon, Portugal last week, and came out #1 among 18 countries’ delegations, including from Spain, Britain, Brazil and Australia.

The boys, who live and study in Maaleh Adumim, just east of Jerusalem, are Dov Isaac (who won all 12 games he played) and Ro’i Haber of Grade 5, and Elyashiv Friedman and Aviad Loberbaum of the 6th grade.

The competition involved team play and individual play of four games: Avalon, Octi, Corridor, and good old-fashioned checkers. The Maaleh HaTorah team won regional and national titles in Israel on their way to Portugal.

The Jewish Question
In addition to mastering depth of strategy and thinking skills, the four students also had to prepare in other ways for the games. For one thing, they learned the topic of leaving the Land of Israel and when it is permitted. After consulting with rabbis and learning the Halakhic [Jewish-legal] issues themselves, the decision to go was made based on the importance of representing Israel honorably in an international forum.

“It was a great sanctification of G-d’s Name,” said Moshe Ben-Ami, the teacher who accompanied them both before and during the games. “People from around the world were inspired to see these students, how they behaved, and how well they thought and played – a far cry from what they thought at first, that their yarmulkes and tzitzit [ritual fringes] were some kind of magic charm.”

In addition, the Israeli delegation had to prepare kosher food for five days. “We took one suitcase of clothes, and one for food and utensils,” Ben-Ami said.

The students went to see some Jewish sights in Lisbon, but there was not much to see: “We prayed at the Great Synagogue, which is now generally closed except for holidays. We also saw the Street of the Jews, on which non-Jews now live. And that’s about it…”

“It was a good competition, thank G-d, and we won," said one of the students. “The truth is that the regional and national contests in Israel were harder than the ones in Portugal.”

Five years ago, the Israeli delegation – from the northern town of Misgav – also won the world title, but there were only three other delegations that year.