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>Israel Faxx
>May 29, 2001, Vol. 9, No. 92

Jerusalem's Hebrew Union College Built Same Way as Wedding Hall

By Avi Shmoul (Courtesy of Ha'aretz)

More than 500,000 meters of floor space in Israel were constructed with the Pal-Kal system utilized by the Versailles Hall, whose collapse last Thursday night claimed at least 23 lives, said the Organization of Engineers and Architects.

Ha'aretz reported that buildings done with Pal-Kal include the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, the Bank of Israel in Jerusalem, the Caesar Hotel in Tiberias, and private villas in Caesarea.

Pal-Kal was developed at the end of the 1970s by Eli Ron, an engineer, who based the system on the principle of ribbed surfaces built from two layers of concrete with the space between them filled with corrugated boxes instead of cement blocks or styrofoam.

In a standard ribbed surface, cement ribs - the vertical connections between the two layers of concrete- include reinforced steel to make sure there's a uniform height difference and to increase the ability to withstand stress.

The Pal-Kal system made the reinforced steel unnecessary, relying on the corrugated boxes as the stress-support system. That made for substantial savings. But if something goes wrong during the pouring of the cement, the boxes can end up "floating" between the two layers of concrete, thereby not serving their purposes as stress supports.

A brochure issued by Ron's company says that the Pal-Kal system results in substantial savings and that it is in widespread use in Israel and throughout the Middle East.

But over the years there have been a number of disastrous failings found in the system. In 1996, in the wake of the D-Mall collapse in Ramat Gan, as well as a ceiling collapse in Ashkelon, the system was banned in Israeli construction by the Standards

Institute.Palestinians Agree to Hold Security Talks With Israel

By VOA News

Palestinian officials say they have agreed to resume security talks with the Israelis, in a move toward ending the eight months of violence that has claimed more than 500 lives.

The agreement came as the new U.S. Middle East envoy, William Burns, held a second round of talks with Palestinian Authority chief Yasir Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Resumption of the security talks between the two sides is the first step toward implementing recommendations made by an international commission seeking to prevent the recurrence of Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed.

Burns' meetings came just hours after Palestinian militant groups carried out two car bombings in Jerusalem on Sunday. No one was seriously injured. The U.S. envoy urged Arafat to do everything possible to stop such attacks.

Also, Monday, Palestinians said Israeli forces penetrated a Palestinian autonomous area east of Gaza City to uproot trees and flatten farmland. Palestinian sources also say that at least four people have been wounded by Israeli army gunfire in the southern Gaza Strip.

Censorship Feared as Alexandria Library is Rebuilt

By Philip Smucker in Cairo (

The ancient world's foremost center of higher learning, the Biblioteca Alexandrina, rebuilt in modern splendor, has opened for academics and journalists in an effort to restore Egypt's academic reputation. The library was destroyed by fire more than 1,500 years ago.

But the formal ceremony, scheduled for October, has been overshadowed by a row over censorship which is threatening libraries and bookshops across the country.

(Editor's Note: The Israel Faxx archive is available for researchers at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.)

The interior offers some of the most expansive research and reading space in the world. But even as the library, whose predecessor was built in the 3rd century BCE and used by Euclid and Archimedes, is reopened alongside the ancient site, there are growing concerns that Egypt's academic pretensions are threatened by censorship.

Under mounting pressure from Islamists, President Hosni Mubarak has urged government officials to press ahead with a strict censorship regime against works deemed offensive to Islam.

A senior official at the library said he did not expect similar problems to confront the new institution, as it was "international" and supported and built with donations from the United Nations cultural organization, UNESCO, as well as from Britain and America.

Dr Mohsen Zahran said: "The ancient library was not just a library; it was a university in every sense of the word, a beacon of learning for the entire world. Academic freedom was held in the highest regard then, and we hope that standard will be upheld within the walls of the modern institution."

Jews, Christians and even Buddhists were known to have studied at the ancient library, which stood near the Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Alexandria's ancient library contained some 700,000 volumes and was by far the largest intellectual treasure of its day. But the main library was destroyed by fire in the 3rd century CE during the civil war under Aurelian, and a subsidiary library was destroyed by Christian zealots in CE 391

The new library is starting with 500,000 volumes and thousands of CD ROMs, musical tapes and videos. One official described the new building as both a real and "virtual" library.

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