Israel’s national high school debate team was crowned European champions last week after an undefeated showing at an international debate tournament in Germany.
It was the first time that an Israeli team at the high school level won the prestigious EurOpen debate competition that was held in Stuttgart between November 8-14.
A statement from the team said competitors Maya Carmon, Tamir West, Tomer Zucker and Omer Zilberbeg were unbeaten in all twelve rounds of the competition that was held in English and included teams from 37 countries.
The students, all between 16 and 17 years old, fended off challenges from German, Turkish, Danish, Dutch, Chinese and American teams to reach the finals, the Israeli team said, noting that three members of of its four-person team were not native English speakers.
Coach Elijah Kochin called the victory an “extraordinary achievement” for the students and called it a “privilege to be present to witness the team making history.
In 2016, the national Israeli high school team reached the semi-finals of the EurOpen tournament that was held in Hamburg.
Earlier this year, two Israeli teams were crowned champions of the European Universities Debating Championship in the annual tournament held in Serbia.
Noam Dahan and Tom Manor of Tel Aviv University — who were champions of the “English as a Second Language” category last year — took home the trophy for in the main competition that is intended for native English speakers.
Amichay Even-Chen and Ido Kotler, another team from Tel Aviv University, won in the “English as a Second Language” category. A team from Tel Aviv University has won the tournament’s ESL title for the last four consecutive years.
The Israeli debaters were boycotted by the Qatari team at the tournament, leading organizers to amend EUDC rules to include specific rules about discrimination between competitors.
UEDC slammed the Qatari team for ignoring the assigned topic and using its time on stage to condemn Israel. At first the organization decided to disqualify Qatari team members for the “unacceptable and discriminatory” boycott, and change the schedule to ensure the two teams would not face each other again.
But the Tel Aviv University students protested the response as insufficient, and demanded the UEDC update its constitution to include a pledge to uphold the rules.
After the competition, EUDC delegates unanimously voted to require future tournament participants to sign a pledge agreeing to engage in debate with all other teams, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
Violation of the agreement would result in “immediate barring and removal from the tournament,” according to the amendment.