From the Bible with LOVE

Danielle Mor - 28 April 2021

Am sharing with you a story of love and the bible. You might think this makes complete sense, but here, you will find a lovely turn of fate.

This love story for the Bible, brings thousands of the brightest and best students from Israel and around the world to compete in regional and national competitions to earn a coveted place in the finale of the International Bible Contest (Chidon Hatanach). The contest, founded in 1958, by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, aims to connect Diaspora Jews with the Bible and their Jewish heritage.

Amihai Bannett is the director of the competition at the Jewish Agency, which is in charge of overseeing and organizing the contest, as well as recruiting, preparing, and bringing contestants from Jewish communities around the world to the two-week Tanach Camp.

“The love story for the Bible, often results in a love story between the contestants”

Among the many joys of this position, is also the realization, that the love story for the Bible, often results in a love story between the contestants. Bennett knows personally of some seven such couples.

Such as just a few months ago, when Noah Notis and Atara Kelman got married in Toronto—due to the pandemic, they had just 25 guests in Kelman’s backyard—it was the culmination of a relationship that began four years earlier in Israel, where they’d originally been rivals. Both bride and groom were contestants at the International Bible Contest. Notis representing the United States, and Kelman representing Canada.

Broadcast live on Israeli television at 11 a.m. on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), the contest evokes cult status, even being parodied on Israeli television. With thousands of Israelis, religious and non-religious alike, glued to their television screens, in most countries this would be akin to one of the biggest sporting games of the year. But at the Chidon, the competition centers on contestants being asked difficult questions about facts and books in the Bible.

The quiz begins two weeks earlier when participants, from as many as 30 countries arrive in Israel to participate in a preparatory camp and tour of Israel. Competitors are treated like VIPs, meeting with dignitaries such as the Israeli prime minister, president, and minister of education. this year, all the international competitors had to join online while the Israeli competitors could join in person. While the virtual format of the quiz is likely, for now, to prevent further couples meeting, the next generation, who had both parents compete in the Chidon, may soon be gracing the competition themselves.

“We just told our oldest daughter [who is] 6 years old that we met at a Torah contest and she was really interested in doing it when she got older,” said Dani Lent Halpern. “If any of our children wanted to participate, we would definitely support them, but it is by no means mandatory.”

“Many of the international competitors also choose to bond their love and fate with Israel and make aliyah”

Of course many of the international competitors also choose to bond their love and fate with Israel and make aliyah.

How wonderful it is to consider these stories, of how the love for the Bible bridges divides of background, land and language, to build a common future, based on love. And of course it is said so beautifully in the Bible:

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Psalm 143:8

Don’t know about you, but I am inspired to read now Song of Songs 😊.

Large parts of this article are inspired by the story published in Tablet magazine:


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