First Non-Israeli Champion in 20 years
Winners Yishai Eisenberg (’16) and Elior Babian pose with Minister of Education Rabbi Shai Peron and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

On April 16, Yishai Eisenberg (’16) of Passiac, NJ, became the first non-Israeli in 20 years to win the Chidon HaTanakh, Israel’s annual International Bible Competition for high school students. Interestingly, the last American Winner, RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Jeremy Wieder (’88) was an MTA student as well. Yishai, who dominated the competition from the outset, also became the first champion in its 50-year run to share the winner’s circle when he finished the final round in an unprecedented tie with Elior Babian of Beit Shemesh.

An illustration of the country’s desire to connect Jewish independence to Jewish values, the annual contest took place on Yom Ha’atzmaut at The Jerusalem Theater, under the auspices of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron.

“We are all very proud of Yishai’s amazing accomplishment,” said Rabbi Taubes. “We know how much time and effort he put into preparing for this and were all rooting for him. It’s unbelievable just to qualify for the competition, but to actually win is incredible.”

Chidon Hatanach Champion Yishai Eisenberg (left) with Minister of Education Rabbi Shai Peron and Israeli Champion Elior Babian

When the international competition began, 58 contestants from over 26 countries took the stage, including representatives from Australia, Bulgaria, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Holland, Hungary, Uruguay, Italy, England, Estonia, Argentina, Panama, the United States, Mexico, and even Turkey. They were joined by Israel’s top five contestants.

Four of the five Israelis – Elior Babian from Beit Shemesh, Liora Braverman from Petah Tikva, Koren Kazus from Rehovot, and Eliran Elisha from Jerusalem – reached the final jubilee quiz. They were joined in the final rounds by 12 Diaspora competitors, including four contestants from Canada, three from the US, three from Mexico, one from Panama and one from South Africa.

Braverman and Babian both secured the maximum 60 points up for grabs during the quiz’s early stages and were unexpectedly matched by Yishai. Just prior to the Prime Minister’s question in the deciding round of the competition, Braverman was disqualified, leaving Babian and Yishai to battle it out for the top prize.

In what was intended to be the tiebreaking round, host Avshalom Kor presented the contestants with a series of difficult questions, allowing them only five seconds to answer and no opportunities to correct themselves. Both Yishia and Babian received perfect scores through 12 rounds of head-to-head competition. Before Kor could begin the next round, the judges unanimously declared a tie.

Yishai secured a spot in this year’s competition by achieving the only perfect score at the US National Bible Contest, which took place at YU on May 6, 2012.

An aggregation of all of the news coverage is available on the US Chidon HaTanach website.

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