Israeli Ninth-grader Becomes First-ever Secular Student to Win International Bible Contest

Sixteen contestants from Israel and abroad reached the final after overcoming 74 other competitors from 39 countries

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett stand with the contest winner, Sagiv Lugasi, May 2, 2017.
Shlomi Amsalem

Sagiv Lugasi, a ninth-grader at the Ort Maalot-Tarshiha high school in northern Israel, won the International Bible Contest for Youth on Tuesday, making him the first secular student to win the contest.

Second place was taken by Naomi Cohen, a student at Ulpana Bnei Akiva in Meron, while Masha Shpilowitz of Belarus took third place. Sixteen contestants from Israel and abroad reached the final round after overcoming 74 other competitors from 39 countries.

This year’s Israel Prizes were awarded on Tuesday at a ceremony in Jerusalem attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Supreme Court President Miriam Naor.

The prize for engineering research was won by Prof. Uri Shaked; for education research to Prof. Malka Margalit; for Jewish thought to Prof. Yehuda Liebes; for music research to Prof. Arie Vardi; for sports to Agnes Keleti; for life sciences research to Prof. Yosef Yarden; and for legal research to Prof. Nili Cohen. The lifetime achievement prize for contributions to society and the state was awarded to David Be’eri and Zvika Levi.

The prize to Be’eri, who heads the Elad Association which settles Jews in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, was controversial and elicited criticism from past prize winners.