Amos Hakham

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Amos Hakham (Hebrew: עמוס חכם‎‎) (1921 – August 2, 2012[1]) was the first winner of the International Bible Contest,[2] later a prominent Bible scholar and editor of the Da'at Miqra Bible commentary.[3]


Amos was born in Jerusalem in 1921 to Dr. Noah Hakham and Naomi Hakham (née Shapiro). Hakham's father studied at the University of Vienna and at the Jewish Theological Seminary in the Vienna (graduated in 1912) and earned a doctorate. Dr. Noah Hakham moved to Jerusalem in 1913 and became the founder of the Seminar for Teachers of the Mizrachi movement, and taught Bible himself. The mother of Amos Hakham was a pharmacist and a medic in Kvutzat Kinneret and in Kibbutz Degania[disambiguation needed]. Amos was their only son.

During his infancy Amos fell and injured his hand and his head, and as a result had speaking difficulties. Amos's father decided not to send him to school at all and instead taught him at home in order that he won't be ridiculed by other children at school due to his disability and the way he speaks. When Amos was 15 years old his mother died, and his father's wage as a teacher was the family's only income.

When Amos was 22 his father died. Amos, who had not previously dealt with any craft, began to look for work. On the recommendation of Dr. Feivel Meltzer he eventually got hired as a clerk at the Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem, where he received his meals and some pocket money. During his spare time he studied the Bible.[4] Towards the end of the third decade of his life Amos completed his matriculation exams. In addition to his clerical job at the Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem Amos also helped blind students who attended regular high schools in Jerusalem and who lived at the Institute for the Blind in Jerusalem. At that time he also took part in the creation of Bible in Braille, as he used to read the Bible to a blind typesetter who composed the book in Braille.

The 1958 National and International Bible Contest[edit]

The turnaround in his life occurred in 1958, a decade after the establishment of the State of Israel, when it was announced that the Bible Contest would be held for the first time and would consist of a national contest followed by an international contest. Some of Amos' neighbors at the Sha'arei Hesed neighborhood who knew of his erudition and depth of knowledge of the Bible, encouraged him to participate in the contest.

The National Bible Contest aroused enormous interest among the Israeli public. Amos starred in the contest, which was held at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on August 4, 1958, and was broadcast live on the radio. Due to his dire economic situation Amos had to borrow a suit for the contest from a friend.[5] The Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, who was an avid Bible enthusiast, attended the contest and at the end of it handed the prize to Hakham.

After Hakham won the National Bible Contest he continued to become the first winner of the International Bible Contest, which was held on August 19 in Jerusalem.

At the time, there were no TV broadcasts in Israel and even Kol Yisrael (Israel's public radio service) broadcast only on one radio channel, and thus the International Bible Contest was listened to by a massive amount of people in Israel and it became the country's central conversation. As a result Amos became widely popular in The Israeli press during the following years. After his victory the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Davar crowned him as the "most popular man in Israel, even more than Hodorov".[5] He was also chosen as the Person of the year of the newspaper "HaOlam HaZeh".

After the Bible Contest[edit]

Amos, who had always been shy, suddenly became the center of national and international interest, both in terms of his vast knowledge and his extraordinary personal story. After the contest Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion invited him to his office.[4] Hakham was invited by the Prime Minister on a tour throughout the country and was offered to become a Bible teacher at the Ayanot agricultural school.

A few years later, Amos got married. His marriage ceremony was attended by David Ben-Gurion. In 1963 his first son Noah was born. Winning the International Bible Contest motivated Amos to study the Bible in an orderly manner and to acquire an academic degree. After completing his studies he became a Bible scholar, interpreted eight volumes in the series Da'at Miqra,[4] and wrote various articles for the Encyclopaedia Hebraica. His writings are a synthesis of uncompromising scholarship and faithfulness to Jewish tradition.[6]

In his final years, Amos lived in the Israeli settlement Efrat.[5]

Amos died on August 2, 2012, at the age of 91.[5]