The 2018 delegation
The 2018 delegationThe Jewish Agency

On Thursday, Israel’s 70th Independence Day, Israel will hold the final round of the 2018 Chidon HaTanach (International Bible Contest) for Youth.

A total of 79 students from 41 countries will participate in the contest, more than a 10% increase over last year, when 69 middle- and high-school students from 39 countries vied for the winning title.

Interestingly, over one-fifth of participating students are active in World Bnei Akiva (WBA) in their respective countries, and many admitted that their affiliation with the youth group is what directly inspired their interest and participation in the Chidon.

Countries represented in the competition include Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands Austria, Germany, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, among others.

“World Bnei Akiva delegates accompanied and encouraged me while I studied the books of Tanach (Bible) and helped me tremendously,” relates Lucas Jevsejevs, 14, of Germany who is participating in this year’s contest.

Daniel Engelberg, 16, a South African high school junior, confesses with a grin: “The truth is that I didn’t even register myself for the Chidon; my mom registered me. But as soon as I started studying for it, I was captured by the magic of Tanach, and I’ve enjoyed it very much.”

Engelberg is very active in the WBA branch of his native Johannesburg.

“I’m a regular participant in all our branch activities, and I really enjoy taking part in WBA programs. I didn’t really tell too many people that I’m trying out for the Chidon, but I have no doubt that my friends and the staff are rallying behind me,” he adds.

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Brojtman of Krefeld, Germany, describes what inspired her to join the international Chidon HaTanach: “I discovered the world of Tanach and the Chidon through the WBA programs that I attend in Krefeld. Since the local branch was founded about a year ago, I’ve become a regular member and participant in all programs and activities. Masha [Brosius, WBA branch director in Krefeld] approached me about trying out for the Chidon, and since then, I’ve been studying nonstop.”

Brojtman is ecstatic to be visiting Israel where she has a large extended family.

“Israel is my second home. I have lots of relatives here. I love the nature and beauty of this country, and I’m really happy to be here,” she gushes.

Lucas Jevsejevs, also of Krefeld, shares, “I speak Russian at home, and there are lots of Russian speakers here from a variety of countries. It’s a pleasure to be able to meet them and communicate comfortably with them which enhances the experiencing of meeting Jewish peers from around the world. I studied hard for the Chidon; I took it very seriously.”

“My WBA shlichim kept encouraging me, which kept me on track. To help me out, they also paired me up with a Chidon graduate from Brazil, and together with Hannah, all three of us covered complete chapters of Tanach together. For me, the experience of traveling to Israel for the Chidon isn’t about winning, but about meeting Jewish peers from around the world and making new Jewish friends.”

“The many Jewish youth arriving here, one after the next, from countries around the world come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they all share a common passion and love of Tanach,” says Meir Vanhotzker, International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth coordinator and Jewish Agency representative who completed a volunteer stint as a shaliach with World Bnei Akiva in Belgium last year.

“This is why there’s tremendous value in the aspects of the program that supplement the actual Chidon, like meeting Jewish peers from around the world, making friends, and traveling the length and breadth of Israel. The kids participating in this year’s Chidon are so excited to be here, and they feel honored to be representing their native country in the Chidon HaTanach while simultaneously having the chance to spend quality time in Israel and discover the land.”

Roi Abecassis, Director of the World Bnei Akiva movement, expresses, “The annual Chidon HaTanach is an expression of deep connection to the sources of our faith, a connection that unfortunately cannot be taken for granted among contemporary youth.”

“With World Bnei Akiva, we’re reaching Jewish kids in countries and cities around the world and inspiring them to reconnect to their source in the most powerful way imaginable. This year, the Chidon roster features WBA youth from 14 different countries, which is an amazing number! I’m proud to see our membership rising each and every year, and I wish all our representatives the best of luck on the Chidon [quiz].”