David and Goliath

David and Goliath: Leading the civil coalition in the fight against the oil-shale initiative

The oil shale venture planned in the Judean lowlands would have caused irreversible damage to this ecologically unique and archaeologically important area. The project was meant to turn this green and open region where we live and work, into a petrochemical industrial zone.

The “David and Goliath” project symbolizes the struggle of the little people with the huge IEI corporation, with its vast resources and strong ties within the corridors of power. The name of the project is symbolic for more than one reason: the global pilot for oil shale production was expected to begin in the Ella Valley, right where the historic battle between David and Goliath took place.

Oil Shales are sedimentary rocks rich in the organic material Kerogen – from which oil can be produced by a process of heating. The US-based IEI Corporation received a license to search and produce oil-shale in the Judean Lowlands, within an area of 238,000 hectares. The planned in-situ shale extraction method involves heating the sub-terrain to temperatures of 350 degrees C in order to liquefy the rock. This is an experimental method that has not been implemented commercially anywhere in the world. The environmental consequences of such an industry are very worrying.  Heating rocks to such an extent will require twice the amount of energy produced by the Hadera coal power station, while national greenhouse gas emissions will rise by 20%.  Huge debris piles from digging will accumulate above ground and cracking of the rock would increase the risk of groundwater contamination.

The company received the permit under the archaic Petroleum Act of 1952, where there is no reference to environmental protection. The entire project contradicts national declarations regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and does not match the local planning committee’s decisions regarding land use.

The Ella Valley-based “Good Energy Initiative” is engaged in the production and consumption of clean, renewable energy. Members of the initiative fought the expected horror as part of the campaign “For Adullam”. After three years of active support to recruit staff and partners from amongst local residents, environmental organizations, the media, representatives of the Knesset and the ministries, and independent research and science bodies, The Good Energy Initiative took upon itself to lead this struggle.

We worked continuously and persistently to coordinate all partner organizations, synchronize the activities of various committees, produce a variety of public events to increase awareness of the hazards of shale oil, and recruit more and more residents and allies to oppose this monstrous project. We hung gigantic signs wherever we could, produced and distributed a children’s film (see link), operated booths for signing petitions and objections, organized community events, and gave lectures and tutorials. We led demonstrations and participated in meetings with the planning commissions and parliamentary committees met with ministers, Knesset members, and journalists, and recruited and consolidated the support of the heads of three regional councils in whose territory the project was to be realized.


We carried out non-violent protests in various places where IEI sought to deceive the public. We were expelled by force from the Energy Conference halls, as well as from a number of public meetings held by former Energy Minister Uzi Landau, who promoted the oil-shale company. We spray-painted protesting messages on the walls of relevant agencies and showed up at IEI’s public meetings dressed as exaggerated oil tycoons. Together with our friends, neighbors and partners in the region, as well as our dear colleagues from Greenpeace, Green Trend (Megama Yeruka), Nature Protection Society, the Jewish National Fund, and the Nature and Parks Authority (a government agency that we persuaded to enlist in the fight!) we led a glorious public campaign.

On September 3rd, 2014, we showed up at the decisive meeting of the District Committee for Planning and Building in Jerusalem with busloads of people opposing the oil shale project. Despite heavy pressure from the offices of the Prime Minister and Minister of Energy, and in face of a forceful presence of the Prime Minister’s representative – 13 out of 14 members of the Committee voted against this disgusting venture.

For the time being the open area between Beit Shemesh and Kiryat Gat has been saved from becoming a petrochemical industry.

For the time being…