A "Tzadekes" Reigns Supreme Over Israel Bible Contest

Steve Walz - The Jewish Press [NY] - May 9, 2008

Tzurit Berenson, a 15-year-old Tanach genius from Nahariya in Northern Israel, taught the Israeli political and religious establishments a Solomonic lesson about 'faith & truth' on Yom Ha'atzmaut, during a nationwide telecast of the annual "Israel Bible Quiz" contest.

Miss Berenson inadvertently found herself in the midst of a burgeoning national scandal, as she competed against both her secular and religious male counterparts and 17 year old self-proclaimed "Messianic Jew" (i.e. Jews for Jesus) Bat-El Levy, who beat out dozens of other contestants in a regional Jerusalem competition for "secular" high school children.

The fact that the Education Ministry, led by avowed secularist Minister Yuli Tamir, allowed Miss Levy to compete, even after a previous High Court ruling maintained that a self-professed Christian cannot be recognized as a Jew under the "Law of Return", was scandalous enough. However, the fact that organizers of the International Bible Contest (yes, there have been Jewish participants and winners from North America yeshivot/day schools), let Miss Levy compete against true secular and religious Jews was even more disturbing. Ms. Tamir's spokesperson claimed that Miss Levy was registered in the population registry as "Jewish."

The Messianic Jewish phenomenon is becoming a nationwide problem in Israel, with many Russian immigrants (with chequered Jewish roots) falling victim to this cult, which is being run by and funded with money from the USA.

However, no one, from Ms. Tamir to the Bible Contest organizers considered the worldwide ramifications of what would have happened if Miss Levy had actually won the contest and professed her love for Jesus in front of the international mass media. Perhaps rightly so, a large number of Religious Zionist & Haredi rabbinical leaders publicly called for a boycott of the event.

Yet, what about those secular and religious teenagers who worked for months on end to display their knowledge in a "Jeopardy" like setting? Should they have been punished because the Education Minister is a microcosm of the godless government that temporarily rules Israel?

Miss Berenson told Ch. 2 anchorwoman, Sivan Rahav Meir (Israel's only "frum" anchorwoman) that she was aware of the drama and rabbinical pressure to walk away from the contest. However, after she consulted with her parents, schoolmates and other participants she decided to move forward and defeat Miss Levy in front of everyone.

Miss Berenson, who professed a true love for Jewish history and the Tanach in particular systematically defeated Miss Levy and all of the other participants to win the coveted prize, which has both a monetary and spiritual value. Defeating the Messianic Jew was child's play for Miss Berenson. As she strode to the podium to accept her award and a yasher koach from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (yes, the kippa clad Israeli leader hands out the prize every year), she handed Olmert a note. Startled for a split second by Miss Berenson's boldness, PM Olmert smiled and placed the note in his jacket pocket. Miss Berenson explained that the note contained a plea to PM Olmert to work for Jonathan Pollard's release from an American jail, as a matter of pidyon shevuiim (the halachic imperative to free Jewish prisoners wherever they might be).

In the span of only a few hours, a 15 year old Tzadekes from a small city in the North, taught the whole country a lesson in what it means to be a true Jew in Eretz HaKodesh on Yom Ha'atzmaut.

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