The National Library of Israel is staging an architectural competition for a new $100 million facility in Jerusalem.
The privately funded building will be one of the largest public construction projects in Israel in the coming decade, about the size of the Supreme Court, and has already stirred considerable interest in Israel and overseas.
A non-Israeli architect who recently completed a large public project in the country called the design of the National Library “an extraordinary project both in terms of its importance and its scale.”
The competition will begin in January 2012 and will be open to all architects in Israel.
Four winners will be selected in the first round, and they will compete against four Israeli architectural firms and four from abroad.
The judges have not yet been selected, but will not all be from Israel.
The 40,000-meter library will be built on the corner of Ruppin and Kaplan streets, adjacent to the Knesset, several ministry buildings and the Israel Museum, the library has announced.
As the country’s main library research center, it will sponsor cultural and educational activities, operate a digital information center, and store special collections.
The building will be “a vibrant center serving diverse populations that will make use of the library’s research services,” the National Library said in a statement announcing the competition.
The National Library is moving house in part because the current building, which has never been renovated, is aging.
The current building, which has been designated for preservation, is located on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus and is being returned to the university for its own use. Dedicated in 1960, the building was designed by three architectural firms.
The library is owned partly by the state and partly by Hebrew University and other entities. The money for the new building is being provided by the Rothschild family, through its philanthropic foundation in Israel, Yad Hanadiv.
The Environmental Protection Ministry is unveiling on Sunday Israel’s first comprehensive, multi-year national plan for preventing and reducing air pollution, which will save the country half a billion shekels each year, according to the ministry.
The plan, which is two years in the making and involved experts all over Israel and the world, comes under the jurisdiction of the Clean Air Act, and will be voted upon by the cabinet in a few weeks, a ministry statement said.
Due to the fact that Israel’s population as well as transportation and industrial activities have grown so tremendously in the recent past, experts have predicted that the health effects of air pollution will cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalization cases in the coming years.Therefore, by implementing a new national program, the ministry predicted that the government will end up around saving NIS 500 million each year in treatment costs associated with morbidity and mortality from the pollution.
“Implementation of this program, which is made obligatory under the Clean Air Act, will provide an answer to the most serious environmental problem in Israel that is causing deaths of hundreds of people each year,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan in a statement, noting that such plans have been adopted in most other Western countries years ago.
“Israel, which has become the most densely populated Western state in the world, must urgently implement the plan prepared by us in order to not reach serious levels of air pollution that exist in countries like China.”
At the current rate of growth in population and consequent air pollution, resultant health damages are expected to cost the economy NIS 7.8 billion per year by 2015 and NIS 8.5 billion per year by 2020, according to the ministry.
In the transportation sector, some examples of new policies to be implemented include an expansion of the vehicle scrapping program, as well as an increase in the amount paid for each vehicle; economic incentives for multi-passenger vehicles on tolled roads and hybrid taxis; and legislation to encourage companies to purchase less polluting buses. Along this line, the plan would introduce a pilot program in which three buses powered by natural gas are introduced into the Israeli transportation system.
Meanwhile, the program would also provide NIS 60 million in grants to companies to discourage their employees from using private vehicles.
In households, the new plan would encourage people to operate appliances at night, at a cheaper rate, when the overall electricity system is less stressed, as well as apply varying electricity rates depending on the volume of consumption and consumption hours.
Also critical to the plan would be updated standards for sulfur dioxide emissions as well as new regulations on reducing respirable particles from mines. The program would allocate tens of millions of shekels to expanding air pollution monitoring coverage on national lands, and would also mandate that the future Ashkelon power station be powered only on natural gas, rather than with coal as well, the ministry said.
Klarna’s mega financing round led by DTS and Sequoia funds, invested in companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. E-trading company to expand its R&D center in Tel Aviv from 20 to 50 employees
Israeli-Swedish e-trading startup Klarna completed a large financing round over the weekend, raising $155 million.The round was led by Russian businessman Yuri Milner’s investment fund DST, mainly known for its investments in Facebook and Twitter, as well as for the acquisition of ICQ from US AOL two years ago.Other investors were– the Sequoia VC fund and General Atlantic – a Facebook investor as well.
The mega-round aimed to catapult Klarna – which has thus far raised a total of €8.6 million (about $11.5 million) – to a leading position on the global online payments market by expanding its operations in Europe.
The company’s head of R&D in Israel, Yuval Samet, explained that the company planned to recruit another 30 employees in addition to its 20 employees in its new R&D center in Tel Aviv.
Klarna doubles its revenue each year and is growing at a high rate by competing with PayPal and other online payment systems with its revolutionary product, which allows customers to pay for products ordered online only after they had received the product they ordered.
Costumers don’t have to enter their credit card details when ordering, and customer credibility is assessed by sophisticated algorithms.
Klarna explains that the first purchase is the riskiest, but later on the probability that returning customers will pay grows. The service was launched in Sweden and later on introduced in Norway, Finland, Denmark, and more recently in Germany.
In a past interview to Calcalist, Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said that, as oppose to PayPal, “we work in a reverse manner: You get the product, and only if you’re satisfied with it you pay within two weeks.
“This way we also spare customers the tortuous process of entering their credit card payments for products that might not even arrive.”
Last May, Klarna acquired Analyzd, founded by Yuval and Ohad Samet. Following the acquisition, the Swedish company opened its first R&D center outside Sweden and appointed Uri Nativ as the company’s head of R&D and Yuval Samet as director of the new center in Tel Aviv.
Siemiatkowski says that in the countries in which the company does business, some 40% of the sales of its channel partners are made through the Klarna system.
Klarna operates exclusively in Europe and has some six million subscribers who have purchase $2.5 billion of products through the payment system. The company’s earnings this year are estimated at $120 million.
Yuval Samet told Calcalist that despite the current financial climate in Europe, the company’s sales have not been affected.