Morrison government commits $1 billion over 12 years for new vaccine manufacturing supply



PMO, Author provided

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The federal government has concluded a $1 billion agreement, funded over 12 years, with Seqirus to secure supply from a new high-tech manufacturing facility in Melbourne which would produce pandemic influenza vaccines as well as antivenoms.

This would boost Australia’s sovereignty when the country was faced with a future pandemic, and make for quick responses.

Seqirus, a subsidiary of CSL Ltd, will invest $800 million in the facility, which will be built at Tullamarine, near Melbourne airport. It will replace Seqirus’ facility in the inner Melbourne suburb of Parkville which is more than 60 years old. The Victorian government has supported the procurement of the land for the new operation.

Seqirus says the complex will be the only cell-based influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in the southern hemisphere, producing seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines, Seqirus’ proprietary adjuvant MF59 ®, Australian antivenoms and Q-Fever vaccine.

Work on construction will begin next year; the project will provide some 520 construction jobs. The facility is due to be fully operating by 2026, with the contract for supply of its products running to 2036.

The present agreement between the federal government and Seqirus is due to end in 2024-25.

Seqirus is presently the only company making influenza and Q fever vaccine in Australia, and the only one in the world making life-saving antivenom products against 11 poisonous Australian creatures, including snakes, marine creatures and spiders.

Scott Morrison said that “while we are rightly focused on both the health and economic challenges of COVID-19, we must also guard against future threats.

“This agreement cements Australia’s long-term sovereign medical capabilities, giving us the ability to develop vaccines when we need them.

“Just as major defence equipment must be ordered well in advance, this is an investment in our national health security against future pandemics,” he said.

Stressing the importance of domestic production capability, the government says when there is a global pandemic, countries with onshore capabilities have priority access to vaccines.

Health minister Greg Hunt said: “This new facility will guarantee Australian health security against pandemic influenza for the next two decades”.

Seqirus General Manager Stephen Marlow said: “While the facility is located in Australia, it will have a truly global role. Demand for flu vaccines continues to grow each year, in recognition of the importance of influenza vaccination programs. This investment will boost our capacity to ensure as many people as possible – right across the world – can access flu vaccines in the future.”

To deal with the present pandemic, the government has earlier announced $3.2 billion to secure access to over 134.8 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by the University of Oxford-Astra Zeneca and the University of Queensland, Pfizer-BioNTech and Novavax.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Vital Signs: yes, we need to make things in Australia, but not like in the past



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Richard Holden, UNSW

Much of the focus of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech was around Labor’s proposal to expand childcare subsidies – a policy with some flaws but which moves in the right direction.

Labor’s plan to modernise the electricity grid by setting up a “Rewiring the Nation Corporation” with A$20 billion in government support was also met with general approval.




Read more:
Albanese promises $20 billion plan to modernise electricity grid, and $6.2 billion for childcare


What got less attention was the third pillar of Labor’s budget strategy – a big push toward more local manufacturing jobs.

Albanese wasn’t shy about what he meant. He lamented the loss of Australia’s car-making industry:

Australians will never forget that it was this government that drove Holden, Ford and other car makers out of Australia, taking tens of thousands of jobs in auto manufacturing, servicing and the supply chain with them.

He then announced Labor would create a “National Rail Manufacturing Plan” to expand Australia’s boutique train-building industry:

We will provide leadership to the states and work with industry to identify and optimise the opportunities to build trains here in Australia – for freight and for public transport.

The economics of pillars 1 and 2 make sense. Pillar 3 involves trying to turn back the clock on the irrepressible, tectonic forces of globalisation and automation to pretend we should make things here we shouldn’t.

Understanding comparative advantage

Countries benefit from trade rather than seeking to produce everything they need locally. This is due to the idea of “comparative advantage”, originated by David Ricardo in his 1817 book On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.

One country (call it country A) might be more efficient than another (country B) in absolute terms at producing, for example, T-shirts and wine. It is tempting to think, then, that country A should produce both T-shirts and wine.

But what if country B is really inefficient at producing T-shirts but reasonable at producing wine? If country A specialises in producing T-shirts and country B specialises in producing wine, they can trade and both be better off.

Why? Because country A produces T-shirts much more efficiently than country B, and country B is only a little less efficient at producing wine. Overall, both economies get more efficient, raising living standards.

Making cars and trains in Australia

Does Australia have any comparative advantage at producing cars or trains?

With cars the evidence speaks for itself. Local manufacturing only survived for decades because of huge government subsidies. Without them Australian-made cars couldn’t compete.




Read more:
Holden’s dead end shows government policy should have taken a different road


Only part of that was to do with labour costs – and we should be rightly proud of our comparatively high wages and good working conditions. Germany – home of BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen – also has high wages and conditions.

What about trains? Some trains are made in Australia – by Downer EDI and Canadian multinational Bombardier. That’s good for a few thousand jobs. But the market is domestic, with the customers being state governments who buy with an eye on local jobs.

There’s not a lot to suggest it can become an export industry, competing for example with Japan, which has been making bullet trains since the early 1960s. Or France, whose train builders have sold hydrogen trains to Germany and high-speed freight trains to Italy.

With these competitors having such an edge, and the well-known phenomenon of “learning-by-doing”, are we really going to catch up?

There are many other sectors in which Australian producers are internationally competitive, such as agriculture, services and areas of high-tech manufacturing.
Building on and expanding comparative advantage in these areas makes a lot more sense.

The case for strategic manufacturing

That said, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us how fragile certain parts of our economy are. The same logic of comparative advantage that has done so much to improve living standards has also made us vulnerable in some areas.

Having little or no manufacturing capacity in personal protective equipment or pharmaceuticals like insulin, EpiPens and antibiotics is potentially very dangerous. Importing more than 90% of our pharmaceuticals puts us in a vulnerable position if a state actor that controls important parts of the global supply chain decides to cut supply. This is what economists call the “hold-up problem”.




Read more:
Medical supply chains are fragile in the best of times and COVID-19 will test their strength


So it makes sense for Australia to have more presence in strategic manufacturing like pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment, even if producing these goods locally is not as efficient as buying them from overseas.

From just-in-time to just-in-case

The pandemic has taught us that we have, as a nation, moved a little too far towards the efficiencies of “just-in-time” supply chains. We need to move back somewhat, but certainly not completely, in the direction of “just-in-case” – to a little less efficiency but a little more insurance.

That should involve a push for strategic manufacturing. We should at all times be looking to build on and expand our comparative advantage.

But trying to go “Back to the Future” and build an Australian De Lorean makes no sense.The Conversation

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Scott Morrison names six priority areas in $1.5 billion plan to boost manufacturing


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The federal government is selecting six priority areas for support in a $1.5 billion manufacturing plan Scott Morrison will outline in a pre-budget address.

They are resources technology and critical minerals processing, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence, and space.

The plan will also focus on building “supply chain resilience” after the COVID pandemic exposed the risks of not having enough capability to quickly produce large amounts of vital items such as personal protective equipment.

The funding will be provided over the budget’s forward estimates period.

In a Thursday speech to the National Press Club, released ahead of delivery, Scott Morrison says this budget “will be one of the most important since the end of the second world war”.

“This budget will be necessarily different in scale to those we have seen for generations. It will respond responsibly to the challenge of our time.

“The budget will confirm the strong plan we have to recover from the COVID-19 recession and to build our economy for the future.”

Morrison says Australia needs “to keep making things”. Manufacturing employs about 860,000 and before COVID generated more than $100 billion in value annually for the economy and more than $50 billion in exports.

“Our government is determined to set a ten-year time horizon where all parties – industry, workforce (including unions), governments at all levels, capital (including superannuation funds) and our scientific and research community – are pulling in the one direction,” Morrison says.

He says the government’s “practical strategy” has three elements: creating a business environment where manufacturers can be more competitive, aligning resources to build scale in areas of competitive strength, and securing sovereign capability in areas of national interest.

The policy involves considerable government intervention – picking winners in terms of sectors, and collaborating with them in planning.

A $1.3 billion “modern manufacturing initiative”, focused on the priority areas, will invest in projects to help manufacturers “scale up” and create jobs.

The government and industry will partner to develop industry-led roadmaps to identify growth opportunities, barriers to scale and what is needed along the value chain in each area.

These maps, to be prepared by April, will be guides for investment and actions by both government and industry.

They will set goals and performance indicators – in jobs, research and development, investment – for the following two, five and ten years.

The manufacturing plan is one of a series of policy initiatives the government is announcing in the run up to the budget.

Others have included deregulation of credit policy to stimulate lending, changes to insolvency provisions to cushion struggling businesses, measures to promote digitalisation, and policies on energy.

Morrison in his speech again strongly talks up the importance of gas for the economic recovery generally and the manufacturing sector in particular.

“If you’re not for gas, you’re not for jobs in our manufacturing and heavy industries,” he declares. “For many manufacturers, it is half the problem.”

The National Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission had advised that gas was 20-40% of many industries’ cost structures.

“Combined with higher electricity costs, the NCCC said that has moved many firms into a ‘doom loop’ where they are living ‘turnaround to turnaround’, making existential decisions at each point of the next major maintenance decision, rather than decisions to invest in technology and much-needed productivity improvements to remain competitive. This needs to change,” Morrisons says.

“That is why, as part of our gas-fired recovery plan, we have committed to resetting our east coast gas markets, unlocking gas supplies, establishing a new gas hub and improving our gas grid distribution systems.”

His speech comes as Santos’s $3.6 billion controversial Narrabri coal seam gas project has this week been given “phased approval” by the NSW Independent Planning Commission, with its development subject to it meeting a range of conditions.

Morrison says the government’s “modern manufacturing initiative” will provide a new investment vehicle to help overcome the barriers to scale. It will leverage co-investment with states and territories, industry and research institutions across three activities

  • collaboration: investments of an average of $80 million each to foster long-term, large-scale production or R&D facilities involving consortia of businesses and other organisations, including physical clusters (such as at the Western Sydney Aerotropolis)

  • translation: investments of about $4 million for industry-led projects translating research and commercialising new products

  • integration: investments of about $4 million connecting local firms with export markets.

The national sovereignty part of the manufacturing plan has more than $107 million earmarked for “supply chain resilience”.

“We cannot ignore the obvious. The efficiency benefits of hyper-globalisation and highly fragmented supply chains can evaporate quickly in the event of a major global shock like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is only sensible that Australia consider more options to guard against supply chain vulnerability for critical necessities and to secure us against future shocks,” Morrison says.

Currently, a government review is being done of Australia’s supply chain vulnerabilities in the wake of the pandemic.

The resilience initiative “will support Australian manufacturers investing in capabilities to address areas of identified acute vulnerability domestically, and to ensure they are in a position to contribute to the supply chains of trusted partners and like-minded countries.

“Sovereign Manufacturing Capability Plans will be developed in key areas and a range of policy options will be considered including procurement and long-term contracting arrangements, as well as actions to promote better information sharing and collaboration between government and industry.”

But Morrison stresses this does not herald a return to protectionist policies.

He says Australia is complementing its actions to boost domestic sovereign capability through greater collaboration with like-minded countries.

The manufacturing policy also includes $52.8 million for the existing manufacturing modernisation fund which gives grants to support transformational technologies and processes.

In a Wednesday pre-budget speech Anthony Albanese renewed his calls for trains to be built locally.

“State governments will invest billions of dollars in new public transport projects over the next two decades, requiring hundreds of new rail carriages.

“We should build them here. We have the facilities in Maryborough, Ballarat, Bendigo, Newcastle and Perth. We also have the skills,” he said.

“What we need is a government prepared to back in Australian-made trains and Australian-based jobs.

“This is just one example of how the government should use its purchasing power to create good, secure jobs while strengthening our sovereign industrial and research capabilities.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Shorten promises $1 billion fund to finance manufacturing enterprises


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Bill Shorten is promising that a Labor government would set up a A$1 billion fund to assist “advanced manufacturing”.

Modelled on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which was established by Labor, the Australian Manufacturing Future Fund “will support innovative Australian manufacturing firms who want to grow their businesses and create jobs, but who might find it difficult to obtain private sources of finance”.

Shorten will make the announcement on Saturday in Adelaide. It comes as South Australia is hit by the shutdown of Holden’s car production plant there on October 20, with a loss of about 950 jobs. It also highlights the more interventionist policy approach being seen from both sides of politics.

A state where manufacturing struggles, SA faces an election early next year in which jobs and business opportunities will be issues. Last week’s announcement that Nick Xenophon will leave the Senate to lead a team of state candidate has thrown a wildcard into the poll.

Shorten and Shadow Industry Minister Kim Carr said in a statement that the proposed fund would help local manufacturers innovate and diversify. This could mean:

  • auto component manufacturers re-tooling or diversifying into other industries;

  • food manufacturers investing in new equipment for new products to export to Asia; and

  • metals fabricators expanding into pre-fabricated housing.

They said that an ALP government would ask the fund to give priority to considering “transformative investments in the automative manufacturing and food manufacturing sectors”.

Shorten and Carr quoted the Australian Industry Group saying that financial institutions were “downgrading manufacturing industries and making access to finance more difficult and expensive”.

“Labor won’t let the big banks hold Australian advanced manufacturing back,” they said.

The fund, which would not be financing large-scale enterprises, would partner with private finance to reduce the perceived risk in innovative projects. It would “apply commercial rigour” when investing and would offer financing in the forms of equity, concessional loans and loan guarantees. It would not make cash grants.

It might partner with the CEFC to invest in energy efficient projects and equipment to help with a business’ energy costs, or with the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to access new export markets with new products.

The ConversationThe fund would be off-budget. It would be expected to be financially self- sufficient and achieve a benchmark rate of return across its portfolio.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Budget 2017: a glimmer of support for innovation and advanced manufacturing


Drew Evans, University of South Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s 2015 National Innovation and Science Agenda was a call to arms for Australia’s research and industry sectors to collaborate and drive our economy. The Conversation

One and a half years on, you’d be excused for thinking a few pages of notes were missing from Budget 2017. Specifically no comment was made about the vision of where our great “ideas boom” was taking us – setting the scene to unite industry and researchers alike.

For manufacturing there was a glimmer of hope in the announcement of A$100 million to boost innovation, skills and employment in advanced manufacturing.

It addresses people, know-how, process and partnerships. If connected into a strategic plan there could be benefits for businesses as the manufacturing sector redeploys into new activity.

However, it does appear narrowly focused on the here and now for closed and closing automotive manufacturers.

In the absence of linkage with the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the pending 2030 Roadmap from Innovation and Science Australia, and comment on the research and development tax incentive review, the A$100 million may be an expensive band-aid.

Capital upgrades

The funding announcement refers to A$47.5 million for a new Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund to support South Australian and Victorian manufacturers for capital upgrades to “make their businesses more competitive through innovative processes and equipment”.

My experience of project work with manufacturing companies is that capital cost of equipment (capital expenditure, or “CapEx”) has never been a roadblock to growth and success.

When the business case stacks up, CapEx is easily justified. The business case is built upon having the right people and know-how in the business.

In isolation the drive to purchase new equipment presents no value to business, and may even lead to stranded assets. But coupled with people and know-how, opportunities may come.

It’s important to recognise that right now, existing manufacturers are looking at how to utilise and/or redeploy their existing assets. In particular the automotive parts manufacturers are seeking new opportunities that match with existing equipment.

An example is a company that I am working with, Precision Components in South Australia. They are redeploying their large metal presses previously used in car component manufacturing to create components for capturing solar energy at HeliostatSA. It’s a project that has contributed to export capability for HeliostatSA.

Redeployment is the focus for many businesses today, not new equipment.

Small scale research projects

The funding announcement refers to A$4 million to support small scale and pilot research projects in advanced manufacturing, administered through the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre.

This seems like a good move.

Boosting innovation requires broadening the base of businesses looking to grow, and collaboration with university research programs is one way to achieve this. Small grants build confidence in collaborative partnerships, and help to clarify what the innovation is and its future return on investment.

For example, the government’s Innovation Connections scheme has had success in seeding innovation and collaboration.

A recent recipient of an Innovation Connections grant, company Sentek Pty Ltd, is utilising this scheme to fund new product development, and to underpin justification for future and larger investment. I am collaborating with Sentek on this project.

Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Projects

The funding announcement refers to A$20 million under the Cooperative Research Centre – Projects initiative for larger scale advanced manufacturing research projects.

This funding should be warmly received.

The CRC program links researchers and industry, with the aim of delivering economic value to the industry partner and the sector more broadly. This scheme funds the real costs of research, develops skills in people, and incentivises transitioning knowledge out of the university.

The newly formed CRC Projects scheme is in its infancy, with industry firmly in the driving seat for administering the projects.

From the first two rounds of funding under the CRC Projects, a total of 28 projects have been funded. Each project has seen a co-investment from industry, universities, other research institutes, and the federal government.

Crunching the numbers for the funded projects shows, on average, the government invested A$2.04 million per project. This indicates that the new A$20 million of funding could support around an additional ten projects. This will stimulate activity and add value to our advanced manufacturing sector.

Innovation Labs

The funding announcement refers to A$10 million to establish Innovation Labs in South Australia and Victoria to serve industry.

It’s difficult to know what this means in reality.

Perhaps the purpose is to provide facilities for early stage innovation to be tested at minimal expense, and reduce the risk of the business making significant investment in infrastructure.

Perhaps it will allow researchers or companies to shore up concepts before seeking investment and raising capital. Maybe existing facilities will seek financial support to expand their remit across a diverse advanced manufacturing sector.

A topical example relates to additive manufacturing – generally known as 3D printing. Businesses producing 3D-printed products need a testing ground to conduct certification and accreditation of products prior to sale. The Innovation Labs could fill this void, and complete the link between laboratory research and commercial product.

Engineering excellence

The funding announcement refers to A$5 million investment in engineering student research at universities, technology institutions and in industry to maintain the flow of highly trained engineers to the automotive design and engineering sector.

At the heart of innovation are people.

Engineers represent one discipline that contributes to the pipeline of innovation. An investment to see the continual training of excellent engineers may address the loss of traditional career pathways.

Perhaps the funds will aid in restructuring of engineering education towards emerging opportunities in the health and medical, agriculture, renewable energy and other sectors.

As more details come to light in the coming weeks and months, the Turnbull government’s vision for Australia’s manufacturing future may become clearer.

But the sense from the manufacturers themselves is that they will just get on and do it anyway.

Drew Evans, Associate Professor of Energy & Advanced Manufacturing, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, University of South Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Messianic Jews in Israel Seek Public Apology for Attack


Christians await court decision on assaults on services by ultra-orthodox Jews.

ISTANBUL, April 23 (CDN) — After a final court hearing in Israel last week, a church of Messianic Jews awaits a judge’s decision that could force an ultra-orthodox Jewish  organization to publicly apologize to them for starting a riot and ransacking a baptismal service.

A ruling in favor of the Christian group would mark the first time an organization opposing Messianic Jews in Israel has had to apologize to its victims for religious persecution.

In 2006 Howard Bass, pastor of Yeshua’s Inheritance church, filed suit against Yehuda Deri, chief Sephardic rabbi in the city of Beer Sheva, and Yad L’Achim, an organization that fights against Messianic Jews, for allegedly inciting a riot at a December 2005 service that Bass was leading.

Bass has demanded either a public apology for the attack or 1.5 million shekels (US$401,040) from the rabbi and Yad L’Achim.

The case, Bass said, was ultimately about “defending the name of Yeshua [Jesus]” and making sure that Deri, the leadership of Yad L’Achim and those that support them know they have to obey the law and respect the right of people to worship.

“They are trying to get away from having any responsibility,” Bass said.

On Dec. 24, 2005, during a baptismal service in Beer Sheva, a group of about 200 men pushed their way into a small, covered structure being used to baptize two believers and tried to stop the service. Police were called to the scene but could not control the crowd.

Once inside the building, the assailants tossed patio chairs, damaged audiovisual equipment, threw a grill and other items into a baptismal pool, and then pushed Bass into the pool and broke his glasses.

“Their actions were violent actions without regard [for injury],” Bass said.

In the days before the riot, Yad L’Achim had issued notices to people about a “mass baptism” scheduled to take place at the facility in the sprawling city of 531,000 people 51 miles (83 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem. In the days after the riot, Deri bragged about the incident on a radio talk show, including a boast that Bass had been “baptized” at the gathering.

The 2005 incident wasn’t the first time the church had to deal with a riotous attack after Yad L’Achim disseminated false information about their activities. On Nov. 28, 1998, a crowd of roughly 1,000 protestors broke up a Yeshua’s Inheritance service after the anti-Christian group spread a rumor that three busloads of kidnapped Jewish minors were being brought in for baptism. The assailants threw rocks, spit on parishioners and attempted to seize some of their children, Bass said.

In response to the 1998 attack and to what Bass described as a public, cavalier attitude about the 2005 attack, Bass and others in the Messianic community agreed that he needed to take legal action.

“What is happening here has happened to Jews throughout the centuries,” Bass said about persecution of Messianic Jews in Israel, adding that many in movements opposed to Messianic Jews in Israel are “arrogant.” He compared their attitudes to the attitudes that those in Hamas, a Palestinian group dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel, have toward Israelis in general.

“They say, ‘Recognize us, but we will never recognize you,’” Bass said.

Long Battle

Bass has fought against the leadership of Yad L’Achim and Deri for four years through his attorneys, Marvin Kramer and Kevork Nalbandian. But throughout the process, Kramer said, the two defendants have refused to offer a genuine apology for the misinformation that led to the 2005 riot or for the riot itself.

Kramer said Bass’s legal team would offer language for an acceptable public apology, and attorneys for the defendants in turn would offer language that amounted to no real apology at all.

“We made several attempts to make a compromise, but we couldn’t do it,” Kramer said.  “What we were really looking for was a public apology, and they weren’t ready to give a public apology. If we would have gotten the public apology, we would have dropped the lawsuit at any point.”

Despite several attempts to reach Yad L’Achim officials at both their U.S. and Israeli offices, no one would comment.

The hearing on April 15 was the final chance the parties had to come to an agreement; the judge has 30 days to give a ruling. His decision will be issued by mail.

Kramer declined to speculate on what the outcome of the case will be, but he said he had “proved what we needed to prove to be successful.”

Belief in Israel

Bass said he is a strong supporter of Israel but is critical of the way Messianic Jews are treated in the country.

“Israel opposes the gospel, and these events show this to be true,” he said. Referring to Israel, Bass paraphrased Stephen, one of Christianity’s early martyrs, “‘You always resist the Spirit of God.’ What Stephen said was true.”

Kramer said that the lawsuit is not against the State of Israel or the Jewish people, but rather for freedom of religion.

“It has to do with a violation of rights of individuals to worship in accordance with the basic tenants of their faith and to practice their faith in accordance with their beliefs in accordance with law,” he said.

Terrorist Organization?

Bass’ lawsuit is just one of many legal troubles Yad L’Achim is facing. In February, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), a civil rights advocacy group, filed a petition asking Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to declare Yad L’Achim a terrorist organization and order that it be dismantled.

In the 24-page document Caleb Myers, an attorney for JIJ, outlined numerous incidences in which Yad L’Achim or those linked with it had “incited hatred, racism, violence and terror.” The document cited instances of persecution against Christians, as well as kidnappings of Jewish women from their Arab partners.

“Israel is a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state, while the actions of Yad L’Achim are not consistent with either the noble values of Judaism or the values of democracy,” the petition read. “Not to mention the fact that it is a country that arose on the ashes of a people that was persecuted for its religion, and has resolved since its establishment to bear the standard of full equality, without discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion or nationality.”

According to the document, Yad L’Achim went after people it viewed as enemies of ultra-orthodox Judaism. The group particularly targeted Messianic Jews and other Christians.

“Yad L’Achim refers to ‘missionary activity’ as if it was the worst of criminal offenses and often arouses fear of this activity,” the document read. “It should be noted that in the State of Israel there is no prohibition against ‘missionary activity’ as the dissemination of religion and/or faith among members of other religions/faiths, unless such activity solicits religious conversion, as stated in various sections of the Penal Code, which bans the solicitation of religious conversion among minors, or among adults by offering bribes. Furthermore, the organization often presents anyone belonging to the Christian religion, in all its forms, as a ‘missionary,’ even if he does not work to spread his religion.”

Particularly damning in the document was reported testimony gleaned from Jack Teitel. Teitel, accused of planting a bomb on March 20, 2008 that almost killed the teenage son of a Messianic Jewish pastor, told authorities that he worked with Yad L’Achim.

“He was asked to talk about his activity in Yad L’Achim and related that for some five years he was active in the organization, and on average he helped to rescue about five women each year,” the document read, using the Yad L’Achim term “rescue” to refer to kidnapping.

The 2008 bombing severely injured Ami Ortiz, then 15, but after 20 months he had largely recovered.

Teitel, who said Ortiz family members were “missionaries trying to capture weak Jews,” has been indicted on two cases of pre-meditated murder, three cases of attempted murder, carrying a weapon, manufacturing a weapon, possession of illegal weapons and incitement to commit violence.

In interviews with the Israeli media, Yad L’Achim Chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifshitz said his organization wasn’t connected with the attacks of the Ortiz family or with Teitel.

Report from Compass Direct News

Victims of Bomb Blast in Israel Recovering as Suspect Indicted


Messianic Jews hope for punishment from courts, mercy from God, for confessed killer.

ISTANBUL, November 13 (CDN) — One morning during the week of March 10, 2008 in Ariel, Israel, David Ortiz opened his Bible randomly, read the words on the pages that opened before him and was filled with dread.

“I opened the book to Jeremiah, and a verse jumped out, “Ortiz said, referring to Jeremiah 9:21: “Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares.”

“I was afraid,” he said. “It was given to me like a promise, but of a different kind.”

For weeks, Ortiz had felt a premonition that something horrible was going to happen to him or his family. Six months prior, while in Norway, Ortiz watched a violent storm rip over the countryside. The wind tore out trees and threw them across a field. But still, through it all, some trees survived. Ortiz felt God was using the storm to speak to him.

“The ones that are rooted are the ones that remain,” he said.

On March 20, 2008, Ortiz’s fears came to pass. When his 15-year-old son lifted the lid of a Purim basket, left anonymously as a gift at their Ariel apartment, a bomb inside the basket exploded.

The bomb was devastating. It damaged the Ortiz family apartment and destroyed much of what they owned. When young Ami Ortiz was taken to the hospital, he was blind, covered with blood and burns and full of needles and screws contained in the bomb. The doctors told his mother, Leah Ortiz, that Ami was “Anush.”

“Literally, in Hebrew it means the spirit is leaving the body,” she said.

Now, 20 months later, Ami is 16, back in school and playing basketball. And yesterday the man that police say committed the crime was indicted for attempted murder.

Other than what has been released in court proceedings, little is known about Jack Teitel, the man accused of bombing the Ortiz family. One thing is certain – he believes he was acting in accordance with the will of God. Walking into court, the 37-year-old, U.S.-born West Bank settler shouted that God was proud of him.

“It was a pleasure and honor to serve my God,” Teitel reportedly said. “God is proud of what I have done. I have no regrets.”

Police said that Teitel is an ultra-Orthodox Jewish nationalist who picked out his targets based on his nationalist philosophy. Along with the Ortiz case, police said Teitel is responsible for the June 1997 shooting death of Samir Bablisi, a Palestinian taxi driver who was found in his cab with a single bullet wound to his head. Two months later, police said, Teitel shot Isa Jabarin, a Palestinian shepherd who was giving Teitel driving directions to Jerusalem.

Police also said that Teitel attempted to burn down a monastery and unsuccessfully planted several bombs. He is also accused of the September 2008 bombing of Zeev Sternhell of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The bombing left the emeritus history professor slightly wounded.

Teitel has told police he was trying to kill David Ortiz, pastor of a church of Messianic Jews called Congregation of Ariel, not injure his son.

In all, Teitel has been indicted for two cases of pre-meditated murder, three cases of attempted murder, carrying a weapon, manufacturing a weapon, possession of illegal weapons and incitement to commit violence.

Adi Keidar, Teitel’s attorney, reportedly said his client is “mentally unstable.” He cited Teitel’s alleged confession to acts he did not commit. After a psychiatric evaluation by the state, Teitel was deemed fit to stand trial. Keidar is representing Teitel or behalf of the Honenu organization, a nationalistic law firm endorsed by Mordechai Eliyahu, a rabbi known for his far-right Orthodox views.

Honenu is known for defending, among others, Ami Popper. Popper was convicted in 1990 for shooting seven Palestinian workers who were waiting for a ride at a day labor pick-up site. Popper’s attack, like all others cited in Honenu’s website, was said to come “in response” to Palestinian aggression. Despite numerous attempts to contact Keidar, he could not be reached for comment.

David Ortiz said he is not surprised by Teitel’s claim that God is proud of him. Ortiz cited biblical verses where the early Christians were warned that one day people would kill them and think that they were doing the will of God. Teitel, Ortiz said, saw him as an enemy of the nation of Israel.

“He saw me and the professor as false prophets,” Ortiz said.

Police have brought no evidence linking Teitel to any other co-conspirator. But Leah Ortiz said she thinks Teitel worked with others. Teitel’s neighbor, Yosef Espinoza, was brought in for questioning and later released. Teitel does not speak Hebrew, but when he was arrested he was distributing handouts written in Hebrew criticizing homosexuals in Israel.

When his apartment was raided, police found a cache of illegal weapons he has been indicted for owning. Ortiz also said that a recording tape from a closed-circuit television camera taken on the day of the bombing shows Teitel was driven to the Ortiz apartment by another person.

Regardless, Leah Ortiz scoffs at the claim that Teitel was politically motivated. Instead, she said, he used politics and religion as a foil to justify murder.

“He is a serial killer,” she said.

In spite of all the pain that the Ortiz family has gone through, Leah Ortiz said she has seen much good come from the tragedy, including miraculous healings. She said that the bombing has helped soften the opinion of people in Israel toward Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the Jewish prophets.

“It has made them face the facts of how they see Jesus,” she said.

Howard Bass, a leader of a Messianic congregation in Beer Sheva, Israel, said he isn’t so sure.

“It’s not that simple,” he said, adding that such attacks may help tolerant people to eschew violence, but that others will actually be encouraged by the bombings. “It makes people aware of how far they [people set against the Messianic Jews] will be willing to go and abhor them. It’s bringing things to light and forcing people to make a decision: What is good and what is evil?”

Hostile Environment

Bass himself was a victim of at least one attack by anti-missionary, Orthodox extremists. On Dec. 24, 2005, several hundred Orthodox Jews mobbed an outdoor service held by Bass. The mob destroyed church equipment, terrorized congregants and threw Bass into a baptismal pool.

Bass has since sued Yad L’Achim, an Orthodox, anti-missionary organization he said is responsible for inciting the attack. A court decision in the case is due later this month.

On its website, Yad L’Achim asserts that missionaries are “devious” and are trying to “destroy the Jewish people.” The organization makes no distinction in its website between missionaries and Messianic Jews. The site also goes as far as to accuse Messianic Jews of “playing the victim to the hilt” in reference to the Ortiz bombing.

Despite numerous attempts to reach members of Yad L’Achim, no one was made available for comment.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2009 issued by the U.S. Department of State, there are 10,000 Messianic Jews in Israel. The report documents several cases of violence against Messianic Jews, including one case on May 15 in which “Ultra-Orthodox residents of the Tel Aviv suburb of Rehovot attacked and beat a group of Messianic Jews who were handing out New Testament pamphlets on the street.”

Additionally, Bass cites a book published this week in Israel entitled, “The King’s Torah.” Bass said the book encourages the killing of gentiles and anyone else deemed to be a threat to Israel.

“We’re seeing a spirit rising,” Bass said, “where they feel they have a legitimate right to kill anyone who threatens the Jewish state.”

Mentioning the book, David Ortiz agreed with Bass, calling the bombing and recent anti-Christian aggression “a shadow of things to come.”

As for what the Ortiz family wishes for Teitel, Leah Ortiz said she hopes he will receive a sentence that is “equal to his crime.” Because Israel has no death penalty, this very likely would mean life in prison.

Regardless of what happens in court, members of the Ortiz family say they have forgiven Teitel.  David Ortiz hopes one day to sit down face-to-face with Teitel and talk. He said he hopes Teitel will become another Apostle Paul.

“There is something inside him that makes him want to kill people. If God has had mercy on me, maybe he’ll have mercy on others,” Ortiz said. “The Lord forgave David and many people in the Bible – my goal and my prayer for him is that he will repent and be saved.”

Report from Compass Direct News