Fifteen-year-old Sapir Malka of the West Bank settlement of Kokhav Yaakov was named winner of the 46th International Bible Contest held Wednesday.
The annual competition is a government sponsored event held as part of Israel's Independence Day traditions. The contest is organized by the defense and education ministries, as well as by the Israeli Defense Forces Education and Youth Corps, the Chief Military Rabbinate, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund.
This year's event saw Malka beat 47 youths from 24 countries.
The new laureate dedicated his prize to his friends who died in the murderous attack on Mercaz Harav rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem in early 2008.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu awarded Malka with the prize and the young winner used the occasion to hand him a personal letter, which he told Ynet contained a plea on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy held in the US.
"The education given at home is important but it cannot replace the one offered by schools," said Netanyahu. "We must do more to increase bible studies in our schools and we will. We must give the subject its rightful place among school subjects."
Head of the judging panel, former President Yitzhak Navon, reminded the prime minister that his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was intent on holding a bible contest for adults, but never got the chance to fulfill his promise. Netanyahu replied, "That's one promise Olmert made that I intend to keep."