Shadi Abu Arar, a Hebrew literature teacher, has a dream - to win the International Bible Contest. Abu Arar was among the first to enroll in the National Bible Contest for adults to be held for the first time since 1981.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar decided to resume the tradition after three decades. Netanyahu's son Avner competed in the International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth this year and reached third place.
The response for the newly resumed quiz has been overwhelming: 1,650 people have thus far registered.
Contestants will be divided into seven districts around Israel, including one designated for IDF soldiers. A written test will be held in mid-July to determine 14 winners from each district who will move on to the regional competition. At the second stage, each district will hold a local race for two spots. A total of 14 contestants will participate in the national contest to be held during the holiday of Hanukkah. The winner and his two runner-ups will move on to the international contest which will be held in 2011.
Abu Arar has been preparing for the competition since the announcement was made and has enlisted the held of a Jewish Bible teacher from Dimona. "I have been drawn to the Bible since I was a kid," he explained. "I find many common points between the Bible and the Quran. As far as I'm concerned the study of the Bible doesn't replace or contradicts the Quran. The Ten Commandments, for instance, also appear in the Quran.
Getting to know other cultures
"As someone who endorses co-existence between Jews and Arabs I think that everyone should get to know the other's culture and holy writings, and this is what I am doing."
Abu Arar noted that he also incorporates Bible studies in his Hebrew literature classes for Arab children. "The final exam includes questions on such books as Proverbs, Ruth, Pirkei Avot ans Genesis."
However, it quickly turned out not everyone shared his enthusiasm with the contest. Various elements, some from the Bedouin education system, claimed he was denying the Quran. "Many people were mad at me," he said. "But I'm doing it out of firm belief. I tried to explain and told them that historically the Bible is the first book, which cannot be denied, but it didn't help."
His students, too, were baffled by his decision but became avid supporters after he explained his stance. "I told my students: 'Do you think your teacher would do something that is wrong?' and now they're all rooting for me to make it to finals," the proud teacher said.