THE SEARCH FOR OIL IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL
A BIBLICAL TREASURE HUNT
By Philip Mandelker
SCRIPTURALLY INSPIRED / INFLUENCED PETROLEUM
EXPLORATION IN ISRAEL
1. Company: Asher Oil Company
Founder: Wesley Hancock. California based. A family company was active in oil and gas exploration in the United States.
Scriptural Basis: Blessing of Asher in Deuteronomy and story of Elijah’s sacrifice in I Kings.
Period of Activity: Early-middle 1960s.
Area of Activity: North-east flank of Mt. Carmel overlooking the plain of the Kishon Stream.
Primary Activity: Drilling of two wells:
(i) Asher #1: 1963 – drilled to 2,391 meters (7,845 ft) to a target in the Middle Jurassic. Results: Dry.
(ii) Asher #2: 1965 – drilled to 1,314 meters (4,311 ft) to a target in the Middle Jurassic. Results: Dry
Related Non-Scripturally Inspired Drilling:
In 1975, Sonol, a major Israeli gasoline marketing company reentered the Asher #2 well and deepened it to 2,596 meters (8,517 ft) to a target in the Early Jurassic. In 1980, OEL, an Israeli-government exploration company drilled the Asher #3 near the first two Asher wells to 574 meters (1,883 ft) to a Cretaceous target. Both these wells were dry.
2. Company: Energy Exploration Inc.
Founder: Andy Sorelle. Texas based petroleum engineer and wildcatter.
Scriptural Basis: Blessing of Asher in Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: First half of 1980s.
Area of Activity: Coastal plain between Mt. Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea, specifically in the area of the town of Atlit.
Primary Activity: Drilling of one well in two stages:
(i) Atlit #1: 1981 – drilled to 5,273 meters (17,301 ft) to a target in the Early Jurassic. Results: Dry
(ii) Atlit #1 Deep: 1982-1983 – deepened the Atlit #1 to 6,531 meters (21,428 ft) to target in Late Triassic. Results: asphalt and then light oil shows in cuttings before well was lost for technical reasons.
3. Company: Moriah Exploration
Founder: Gilman Hill. Colorado based geoscientist active in oil and gas exploration and developer of exploration technology.
Scriptural Basis: Story of Elijah’s sacrifice in I Kings and the Blessing of Asher in Deuteronomy.
Period of Activity: Early and mid-1980s.
Area of Activity: Mt. Carmel near the traditional site of the Elijah sacrifice.
Primary Activity: Drilling of two wells in 1980 and 1986:
(i) Elijah #1: 1980 – drilled to 2,682 meters (8,800 ft) to a target in the Middle Jurassic. Results: Dry.
(ii) Elijah #2: 1986 – drilled to 651 meters (2,136 ft) to a target in the Cenomanian. Results: Dry.
4. Company: Ness Energy
Founder: Harold “Hayseed” Stephens. A Texas oil and gas explorationist and operator.
Scriptural Basis: Genesis stories of Sodom and Gomorrah and a long series of scriptural references in various books of the Old Testament.
Period of Activity: 1980s and late 1990s-2001.
Area of Activity: Area surrounding the southwest quadrant of the Dead Sea and adjacent areas.
Primary Activity: Participation in drilling of one well in 1985; acquisition of certain exploration licenses in the late 1990s. The well, the Har Sedom #1 was targeted to be drilled to about 3,500 meters about 11,500 ft), but was lost for technical reasons at 1,818 meters (5,965 ft) in the Pliocene. The exploration licenses were lost following the failure of Ness to meet its obligations under the licenses to commence the drilling of wells on the license areas.
Related Non-Scripturally Inspired Drilling Activity
The Har Sedom #1 project and well were developed and operated by an Israeli commercial oil exploration company, Seismica. Ness Energy held a minority working interest (about 15%) in the well.
5. Company: Hoshana Oil Company
Founder: Bernard Coffindaffer. West Virginia based evangelical minister and missionary.
Scriptural Basis: Blessings of Asher, Zebulon and Issachar in Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: Early 1990s
Area of Activity: Southern flank of Mt. Carmel and the Valley of Jezreel just east of the South-eastern flank of Mt. Carmel.
Primary Activity: Acquisition of an exploration license and reprocessing and analysis of seismic data. License lapsed with no progress made towards drilling of well.
6. Company: Camberly Exploration
Founder: Lyle Harron. Canadian oil and gas explorationist.
Scriptural Basis: Blessings of Asher in Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: Early-middle 1990s.
Area of Activity: Coastal plain between Mt. Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea.
Primary Activity: Drilling of one well:
(i) Atlit #2: 1996 – drilled to 1,633 meters (5,388 ft) to a target in the Early Cretaceous. Results: Dry.
7. Company: Givot Olam Oil Exploration
Founder: Tovia Luskin. Russian born and educated geophysicist, active in oil and gas exploration in Canada and Australia, before moving to Israel.
Scriptural Basis: The Blessings of Joseph in Genesis and Deuteronomy
Period of Activity: 1990s to date
Area of Activity: Eastern portion of Sharon Plain between Netanya and Modiin
Primary Activity: Drilling of three wells commencing in 1994:
(i) Meged #2: 1994 – drilled to 5,200 meters (17,061 ft) to a target in the Triassic. Results: 400 API Silurian aged oil recovered from the Middle Triassic.
(ii) Meged #3: 2000 – drilled to 4,742 meters (15,683 ft) to a target in the Triassic. Results: Oil and gas shows in the Middle Triassic, but reservoir of very poor quality (very low porosity and permeability.)
(iii) Meged #4: 2002/3 – drilled to 4,919 meters (16,139 ft) to a target in the Triassic. Results: 360 API Silurian aged oil recovered from the Middle Triassic. Attempts in 2005 to drill a horizontal bore-hole in the well in an attempt to recover the oil which is located in tight reservoir rock failed apparently for technical reasons, with the well abandoned following loss of equipment in the horizontal bore.
Plans underway to drill another Meged well and attempt to develop the Meged field discovery, which was recognized by the Israel Petroleum Commissioner in 2004.
8. Company: Zion Oil & Gas, Inc.
Founder: John Brown. Michigan and Texas based businessman with roots in the machine-tool industry and active in building contracting sectors.
Scriptural Basis: The Blessings of Joseph in Genesis and Deuteronomy.
Period of Activity: 1990s to date.
Area of Activity: Manasseh hills and Sharon plain from the southern flanks of Mt. Carmel to Netanya.
Primary Activity: Drilling of a well in 2005:
(i) Ma’anit #1: (Re-entry) 2005 – deepening of previously abandoned Ma’anit #1 from 2,335 meters (7,661 ft) to 4,719 meters (15,483 ft) to targets in the Middle and Early Triassic. Results: The company announced that during drilling and completion operations, the well had numerous significant oil and gas shows in a 2,100-foot interval.
Analysis of the results of the well is continuing and future activity, including designing comprehensive completion procedure and drilling of an appraisal well being considered.
Related Non-Scripturally Inspired Drilling Activity:
The Ma’anit #1 was originally drilled to 2,335 meters (7,661 ft) in 1995 by an Israeli commercial oil exploration company, Sdot Neft. Though originally targeted to 4,500 meters (14,765 ft), it was abandoned as a dry hole after Sdot Neft ran out of money
(for a PDF Download of Philip Mandelker’s entire study go to: http://www.oilinisrael.net/resources/biblical-treasure-hunt-free-pdf)
A friend of mine, Tom Boulting at Charter Films, Ltd. (they’re the folks producing the Zion Oil movie) sent me a note this week about a passage of scripture – Deuteronomy 33:23. “And of Naphtali he said, ‘O Naphtali, sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the lake and the south.’”
This was Tom’s question: “I know that the next verse refers to Asher and dipping his foot in oil and I may be stating the obvious, but isn’t naphthalene a hydrocarbon and where is ‘the lake’ and ‘the south’? This may be irrelevant, but I just came across it and wondered if you had noticed the Naphtali/naphthalene connection.”
Tom is a wonderful guy and a great filmmaker, but he’s not a scientist or a theologian. My first impression was that he saw the name of the ancient Israeli tribe ‘Naphtali’ and made a connection (that wasn’t there) with the modern term ‘naphthalene’ – a hydrocarbon solid. It’s just a coincidence that Naphtali and Naphthalene sound the same; the two words are separated by centuries, languages and cultures. But Tom is a friend and I wanted to explain the difference between the words. I didn’t want him making connections where there weren’t any. To prove my point I researched the words, their meanings and their root … boy, was I surprised! That ‘Naphtali’ and ‘Naphthalene’ sound the same may be a coincidence, but the more I looked into it, the more the ‘coincidences’ stacked up. At this point I’m not sure what to think of the Naphtali/Naphthalene connection but it’s a pretty interesting point to ponder.
Pulling apart the words
In Hebrew “Naphtali” means “my struggle” or “I wrestle”. It was the name Jacob’s wife, Rachel gave to her second son through her maid-servant Bilhah. Rachel was “wrestling” with big sister Leah in a baby making contest. Between the two sisters and their maid-servants, they produced twelve offspring for husband Jacob, all of whom would eventually become (with a little rearranging by G_d and Joseph’s two boys) the twelve (or thirteen) tribes of Israel.
“Naphthalene” is a two part ‘scientific’ word – “naphtha” (a broad term referring to any number of liquid hydrocarbon mixtures) and “lene” (a suffix defining the object as a derivative of the root preceding). In street terms, “naphthalene” means literally “derived from naphtha”.
Stay with me – we’re about to discover something interesting!
The word “Naphtha” (a broad term for liquid hydrocarbon products) comes from a Latin term for what we know today as petroleum (which is also Latin – petro = rock, oleum = oil). The Latin “naphtha” comes from the Greek “naphtha”, again, meaning petroleum. Want to guess where the Greek “naphtha” comes from? The Greeks got their word for petroleum from the Arabs (“naft”) and Hebrews (“neft”)!
But you’re not going to find “neft” in the Bible. The ancient Hebrews knew about petroleum oil but they called it “chemar” – the closest English translation we have today is “bubblin’ crude”, Jed Clampett style. I kid you not, that’s what the ancient Hebrews called oil from natural seeps in the Promised Land – ‘bubblin’ crude’. Jed would have been proud.
As far as I know the word “neft” didn’t come into Hebrew usage until after the Babylonian captivity. Liquid hydrocarbon seeps were also a natural phenomenon in Babylon (modern day Iraq) and the Jews brought the Babylonian term back with them. Israeli’s still use the term today.
So, does the ancient tribe of ‘Naphtali’ have any connection at all with the modern term for a petroleum product? Or is the similarity in sound just a coincidence?
Here’s where the ‘coincidences’ start to stack up.
1. The name ‘Naphtali’ is still around; but it’s now spelled ‘Neftali’.
2. The tribe of Naphtali was given land in the far north, above the Sea of Galilee (the lake of Deut 33:23) and west of the Golan Heights. On Naphtali’s western border lies Asher (“he shall dip his foot in oil”) and on its southern border lies Zebulun (“he shall suck of the abundance of the seas and of treasures hid in the sand”) – both neighboring tribes with a prophesied promise relevant to our search for oil.
3. Today Naphtali’s land is home to the Hula Valley, the suspected site of significant gas reserves and currently under exploration license with Adira energy.
4. Naphtali’s territory sits next to Asher’s and its blessing (Deut 33:23) is recorded next to Asher’s (Deut. 33:24). Naphtali’s blessing states that he will be ‘sated’ (filled up) with ‘favor’ and ‘full of blessing’.
Add those ‘coincidences’ up and we may have another piece to the Great Treasure Hunt puzzle! As I said earlier, I’m not sure what to think of the Naphtali/Naphthalene connection at this moment, but it’s a pretty interesting ‘coincidence’. I’ll keep you posted as exploration unfolds in the land of Naphtali.
P.S. In her 1997 novel The Jewish War, Tova Reich’s character Heshie Finkel, a young mathematical genius, is charged with the task of deciphering the mystical significance of ‘neft’ in order to bring oil to Israel. After extended study and the counsel of an aged rabbi he has an epiphany that ‘neft’ will come to Israel with the coming of the Messiah. Reich, a secular satirist, was poking fun; she didn’t mean for the connection between ‘neft’ and the Messiah to be mystical or prophetic. But some truths have a way popping up even when you’re not looking for them. If she turns out to be right I’ll drop her a note.