The Sedco rig sits on top of the Tamar field, which has almost 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas

The recent discoveries are so large, and have come so swiftly, that some Israelis are having difficulty adjusting to the new reality. Even hardened energy executives speak of a “miracle” when discussing Israel’s natural gas story; others have resorted to the heavens to explain the new-found wealth. No less a figure than Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, recently compared the discoveries to “manna from heaven” – the mystical food that sustained the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert.

Yet for all the talk of divine intervention, the discovery of Leviathan, Tamar and other fields would not have happened without the fierce determination of men like Gideon Tadmor. A cheerful, rotund 49-year-old, he is widely regarded as the pioneer of Israel’s natural gas industry.

Tadmor trained as a lawyer and dabbled in the property business before deciding more than two decades ago that it was time to turn his attention to oil and gas exploration. It was not the most promising line of business. Like all Israelis, Tadmor was only too familiar with the famous complaint made by Golda Meir, and repeated endlessly since then. “Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses,” the then prime minister remarked at a banquet in 1973. “He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.”

Over the years that claim became an article of faith for many Israelis. The country’s conspicuous lack of natural resources chimed with the broader national narrative of a state struggling and succeeding against the odds. It even served to heighten Israeli pride in the country’s economic and military achievements, which frequently outshone those of nearby countries rolling in oil wealth.

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