The potential discovery of an estimated 1.5 billion barrels of oil in Israel is raising hopes that the Jewish nation one day will become energy independent and may even export oil.
In a preliminary report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Givot Olam Oil estimates there are 1.525 billion barrels of oil at its Rosh Ha'Ayin site, located about 10 miles inland from the Tel Aviv coastline.
It remains unclear how much of the oil is recoverable and what economic impact it may have. Givot Olam's previous reports estimated daily production at only 382 barrels, but definitive production estimates should be known next month when the final report is submitted.
Those findings will be watched closely. Christian supporters of Israel have long believed the Bible points to vast amounts of petroleum deposits in Israel. And some Bible prophecy teachers believe the final battle of Armageddon will stem from attacks against Israel over its oil resources.
In a blog posting Wednesday, author Joel Rosenberg said prophecies in Deuteronomy indicate that oil and hidden treasures under the sea will be found in Israel in the last days. He said Ezekiel 38 and 39 also indicate that Israel will be prosperous in the end times, before a Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance forms and seeks to destroy the nation.
"In recent years—and indeed, in recent months—we seem to be seeing this Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance growing," wrote Rosenberg, who included a chapter about oil discoveries in Israel in his New York Times best-selling book Epicenter.
"We also see Israel's economy growing significantly and remarkable new discoveries of oil and gas," he added, pointing to reports about Rosh Ha'Ayin.
In an interview with Israel's Ynet News, Amir Makov, chairman of Israel Institute of Petroleum & Energy, said the Rosh Ha'Ayin estimate is "a joyful and heart-warming discovery." But he noted that the extraction capability remains unclear, even if the oil reserves are as high as Givot Olam estimates.
In reports from 2009, the company said only 10 percent to 20 percent of the oil in the reserve is recoverable.
"The company will have to perform additional tests and drillings until we know what this means both in terms of the company's commercial potential and in terms of the national potential," Makov said.
John Brown, the Christian founder of Zion Oil & Gas, is also cautiously optimistic. "Until we physically see it, we really don't know," Brown told Charisma. "We hope it's the truth. We want all the success in the world for Israel, obviously."
Zion Oil & Gas plans to begin drilling for oil north of Rosh Ha'Ayin within the next two weeks. Like Rosenberg, Brown believes the Bible prophesies that oil is hidden deep in Israel.
"We've got to go deep because the Scripture says, 'The blessing of the deep that lies beneath,'" Brown said, referring to Deuteronomy 33:18-19. "So our rig will go 20,000 feet. We're going to be drilling deep in Israel. That's where we believe ... the bulk of the oil is."
Brown said his company is also encouraged by a U.S. Geological Survey report released in May that said there might be 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable undiscovered oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas offshore in the Levant Basin, an area within Zion's exploration rights. Brown said that's roughly $917 billion of oil and gas.
"All the potential there in the Middle East in this Levant Basin ... that's the proof that there's oil and gas there. No doubt," Brown said. "The question is where."
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