A 15-year-old student from northern Israel on Tuesday became the first secular student to win the International Bible Quiz in over 30 years.
Sagiv Lugasi, a student at the Ort school in Ma’alot-Tarshiha, took first prize in the annual competition in Jerusalem on Tuesday, held every year on Independence Day.
“I prepared for two years. In the past year, for 12 hours a day,” Lugasi told the Ynet news website. “I didn’t go to school for two months.”
Naomi Cohen, of the Bnei Akiva school in the northern town of Meron took second place in the competition, organized by the Education Ministry, the IDF, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund. Masha (Maria) Spielowitz of Belarus came in third, and fourth place went to Shlomo Helfgott from the US.
More than 70 teens from 39 different countries spanning six continents took part in the competition.
In his opening remarks, Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the celebration of Israel’s independence is “another chapter in the Bible, a book of wars and miracles, a book of victories and huge challenges.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu awarded the prize, telling Lugasi that he had often asked himself how long it would be before a secular teenager would win the prestigious prize.
Netanyahu said that the Bible is not an ancient document, but a vibrant, constantly revitalized book.
“There is no statute of limitations on the Bible, just the opposite: what characterizes the Bible above all is constant revitalization,” he said. “Each generation finds answers to the challenges of its time in the Bible. Each generation adds new layers to the acts of the heroes of the book of books.”