100 Million Barrels of Oil in Israel? Investors Hope and Pray

The Gevaot drilling company is trying for a fifth time to unearth the motherload. Investors look on to the burning torch hoping that their ticket to early retirement is bubbling somewhere beneath the surface. They quote the Torah, believing in a miracle. Gevaot is updating constantly.

Let’s begin with a tip for all those Israelis looking to get rich quick: An investment kiosk, or a falafel or hotdog stand at the Israeli oil company Gevaot’s drilling site Meged 5 can put just as much cash in your pocket as an imaginary investment in the crude oil that may or may not be found there. The site, located just southeast of Rosh HaAyin by barren swaths and a winding highway, this very thing is the attraction of the Summer among the Israeli business sector. “The Middle of Nowhere” it seems, is the new hip place.

“We’re not allowed to talk to the investors that come here,” said the site’s security guard. A car comes in for a parking space, and parks in the most attractive location: Front and center from the torch. Two youngsters get out, both wearing black T-shirts. When they hear the word “the press” they twist their faces. It seems that they’ve had their fill of media, like most of the other investors. “Because of the stinking media, the stock went down today.” They express their anger, preaching about conspiracy theories that tie together capital, government, and crude oil.

They’re only 24, began trading in the stock market only 2 years ago. They’ve been invested in Gevaot about a year—dreaming about early retirement. What do they do when they get here? “We come for two hours, drink some coffee, chat a bit, and go back home.” And who comes here? “Most of the people here are from some sort of ethnic sector or other, and most of the investors are traditionalists.”

Do they already know how big the well is? “They do, they do.” So why aren’t they reporting it? “Because they’re bad people,” they say. Either that, or they need confirmation from an uber-geologist.

Koby Cohen and his friend Moti Bangelsdorf are both 30 and are salaried workers in the hi-tech industry. They invested a hefty chunk in Gevaot. A few hundred thousand shekels,” they say nonchalantly. “In the first round in Gevaot I made 100,000 shekel profit. So I got in again,” he says proudly.

“We’re not one of the addicts,” says Cohen. We were here two or three weeks ago. This is our fourth time. We got stuck in a 40-minute traffic jam just to see the torch, because when you see the torch, you know something’s happening and it’s not just there for decoration.”

He parts with the following words: “History will be made here. There’s a huge oil field and there’ll be 100 million barrels here, with God’s help, and at least 10-15 more drills. Be optimistic, don’t be negative juts for the hell of it. It kills the investors. If so many people believe in it then it’ll pan out. Maybe it’s just a dream, maybe just a hope, but a man with no hope has nothing to live for – don’t destroy our hopes. Even if it remains a dream, people need to believe in something.”

Meged-5 is the company’s fifth drill site after four unsuccessful attempts. The word Meged is mentioned 5 times in Deuteronomy 33:13-15, in Moses’ parting blessing to the tribe of Joseph—Ephraim and Menashe, known for the fertility of their apportionment in the land of Israel 3,000 years ago, in today’s Samaria, just east of Rosh HaAyin, where Joseph’s children have returned to drill deep.