(JTA) — An Israeli teen returned his country to the top of its international Bible quiz following a one-year absence.
Eyal Yitzhak Matas, a 15-year-old yeshiva student from Rehovot near Tel Aviv, won the annual competition held on Thursday, Israel’s 67th Independence Day, in Jerusalem. Matas edged Udi Elgarbli, a yeshiva student from Jerusalem, who finished second. Another Israeli, Arad Kotzer of Ashdod, was third.
Last year, Ethan Amos from Canada took the title. The previous year, New Jersey’s Yishai Eisenberg shared the crown with Elior Babian, an Israeli.
Eisenberg’s share ended two decades in which the quiz was won only by Israelis, according to the Ynet news site.
At this year’s quiz, the best performance by a non-Israeli was by Ryan Raphael Ripsman of Canada, who was fourth.
Ripsman was one of 12 foreign contenders who made it to the final round, along with four Israelis. Of the foreigners, three each were from the United States, Canada and Mexico. The others were from Belarus, South Africa and Panama.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the winners in a statement in which he also called on Jews to immigrate to Israel, or make aliyah.
Israel, he said, is “the place in which a Jew can walk in the street and say ‘I am a Jew’ or ‘Je suis Juif,’” though he added this does not mean that Israel “negate[s] the responsibility of the various governments in the world to see to the security” of Jews living there.