Eitan Elbaum (second in from right) poses with other members of the Israeli dele
Eitan Elbaum (second in from right) poses with other members of the Israeli deleCourtesy

Eitan Elbaum, a student at the Jerusalem College of Technology’s (JCT) Torah U’Mada Yeshiva High School, won a silver medal at the prestigious International Olympiad of Informatics (IOI) that was held in Indonesia last month.

A total of 346 students from 90 countries participated in what is considered to be the world’s most prestigious computer science competition for high school students.

The two-day competition is one of five international science olympiads held annually. Each day, participants were presented with three complex questions that they had to solve in under five hours. Exceptional high school students from various countries compete in the high-profile algorithmic competition to sharpen their informatics skills — such as problem analysis, design of algorithms and data structures, programming, and testing. The main objective is to challenge the best and the brightest of the next generation of computer science students while fostering friendly international relationships among students and educators worldwide.

Rabbi Raphael Bublil, head of the Torah U’Mada Yeshiva High School situated on the JCT campus said, “The connection between the holy and academic worlds provides a myriad of opportunities to students striving for technological excellence. We’re proud of Eitan for his hard work and other members of his delegation for their impressive achievements and wish them continued success.”

Elbaum was one of four Israelis participating in the competition in Indonesia. The Olympiad also represented the fourth time that Elbaum, 17, has represented Israel on a global stage.

“I never thought that I would reach the level to be a member of the delegation and represent Israel, and I certainly did not imagine that I would be able to bring back a medal together with my friends in such an excellent delegation,” Elbaum said.

“I learned that if you invest, work hard, and believe, the impossible does not exist. As Eyal Yifrah said, ‘If we want to succeed as much as we want to breathe, any summit is possible,’” he said, referring to one of the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014, just prior to the start of Operation Protective Edge.

Elbaum has participated in computer science competitions since 7th grade, with the foundation of his computer science education provided by instructors at JCT’s Torah U’Mada Yeshiva High School.

The school offers a unique educational experience for gifted religious students from grades 7-12, and features high-level Torah study combined with a full high school diploma as well as an academic degree in science and technology from JCT.

“I owe a lot of my success to Torah U’Mada. At 13, I was learning Python and C++ programs that many don’t encounter until much later in their studies. This definitely gave me a leg up when I faced off against other computer science students from around the world,” Elbaum explained.

Since Israel and Indonesia do not maintain diplomatic relations, the Israeli team participated over Zoom while the other students at the competition were present in person.

“I’m so proud to represent Israel, especially considering the host country doesn’t recognize its existence,” said Elbaum. “While it would have been nice to be there in person since that’s a big part of the experience, competing on Zoom actually helped us focus on the questions at hand and I think ultimately helped our performance.”

In addition to Elbaum’s win, fellow Torah U’Mada student Ori Frankel also secured a silver medal win in mathematics at the 63rd International Mathematical Olympiad that was hosted in Oslo a month earlier.