British Council to Keep Library Open

The British Council is reopening its Jerusalem library just one day after it was closed because of a possible American war on Iraq. A "reassessment of the situation" was behind the U-turn, said Scott Talmon, the British Council spokesman in Israel.

"We didn't see the effectiveness in keeping it closed," Talmon told Haaretz on Tuesday. The British Council spokeswoman in London, Brionie Huish, said all the staff of the library in the Baka neighborhood turned down an offer to leave Israel with help from the British Council, making the reopening possible. Talmon said emails and letters protesting the library closure also helped reverse the decision.

On Monday the British Council closed its public access services in Israel, including the Jerusalem library, the reference facility in Tel Aviv and English classes, following a directive from London. This was issued in response to the change in travel advice for Britain nationals in Israel when the Foreign Office last Wednesday advised against "all non-essential travel" to Israel.

Staff of the British Council, which is the British government's cultural and educational arm abroad, as well as those at the embassy in Tel Aviv, have been authorized to leave Israel if they choose to heed the travel advisory.

The council Web site says: "As a result of this, we may not be fully staffed in the coming weeks. For this reason, and for a temporary period from Monday, 24 February, we will not receive members of the public nor conduct English language courses."

While the council's English classes and the reference facility of the council of Tel Aviv will remain closed, Talmon says the closures are temporary and would be reviewed daily.