Two Israeli girls, Emunah Cohen and Neta Lax, won the first and second places respectively in the annual International Bible Quiz on Wednesday, held in Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day.
Cohen, who is in her final year of school in the central city of Gedera, beat out 41 contestants from 20 countries who reached the competition’s advanced stages. Lax is also in her final year of school, at Ulpanat Bnei Akiva in the northern West Bank settlement of Neve Tzuf.
The spelling bee-like contest has teenage contestants answer trivia questions about minute details from the most obscure biblical books. Contestants must locate or complete fragments of biblical verses, identify who said which quotation to whom, or name geographical details of the ancient Land of Israel.
The Bible Quiz was attended by several prominent dignitaries, as is traditional, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, whose mother, Aura, founded the competition in 1958.
Cohen’s victory is the first time in three years that a girl has won the competition. The last time girls finished in the two top spots was 17 years ago.
Speaking at the event, Netanyahu congratulated the competitors and once again reiterated his call for the country to unite in the face of massive upheaval due to his government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.
אמונה כהן מישראל זכתה בחידון התנ"ך העולמי. במקום השני זכתה נטע לקס, וזו הפעם הראשונה מזה 17 שנה, שהתחרות מסתיימת עם כלה וסגנית pic.twitter.com/uqiEJqCZg7
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Staying true to the event’s biblical theme, Netanyahu said: “Our forefather Abraham, at the age of 75, left Haran and following [God’s] commandment ‘Go forth,'” arrived in the land of Israel. From that 75 to this 75 — 75 years of independence for the State of Israel. All of us, all the tribes of the nation, are making this journey together.”
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana told the audience that “only family members and closest friends can testify how many long days and sleepless nights these young people have dedicated to reaching this point.
“Every year, thousands of young people from all over the world put aside all their other pursuits to participate in this important study and learning of the eternal book. It’s impossible to imagine the return of the [Jewish] people to their land without the Bible,” said Ohana.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.