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Avner Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, beat out 12 finalists and won the National Bible Quiz on Tuesday in Kiryat Shmona. The competition began with 12,000 contestants around the country.

The smiling, elder Netanyahu commented after the competition: "I don't remember feeling this much tension since the [Likud] primaries.

Jackie Levy, the emcee, said the howls of encouragement from hundreds of youths gathered in a Kiryat Shmona gym, gave the event "an atmosphere of a good derby."

Indeed, the ballyhoo seemed more suited to a sporting competition than a battle of wits among 12 teenagers who displayed exceptional knowledge of the Bible.

The national quiz, one felt, has not seen such popularity in years. Drora Halevy, the Education Ministry's supervisor of Bible instruction in state schools and a member of the judges' panel, said she was moved by the heightened interest in the contest yesterday. However, she understood that behind the hype was the participation of the prime minister's son. "This is a day of celebration, and this year it also comes with exposure alongside the security constraints due to the attendance by the prime minister," Halevy said.

The prime minister and his wife, Sara, obviously drew the most attention among the parents who were present.

Avner Netanyahu's first-place finish had his family swelling with pride. His win comes with an impressive family pedigree - three of Sara Netanyahu's siblings won both the National Bible Quiz and the International Bible Quiz. "Until now, I've always said that I'm a member of a family with Bible quiz champions," said Sara Netanyahu. "But now I have a son who is a champion."

The premier and his wife repeatedly embraced their son, who said he would have enjoyed the contest even if he had finished in last place.