By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM — The National Library of Israel will suspend its public services and put its 300 employees on unpaid leave.
The closure, which is set to begin on Aug. 17, is due to a cut by the government in the library’s budget along with a “drastic drop” in income and donations, the library announced Aug. 5.
Under the suspension, the library will stop the lending of books and close reading rooms. Teacher training also has been canceled.
Online cultural events that have been held throughout the coronavirus crisis will be canceled as well.
While Israel has no budget for 2020, every ministry is supposed to get 90 percent of the money budgeted in 2019, but apparently the library did not get its share.
The library’s board chair, David Blumberg, and director, Oren Weinberg, called on Israel’s education and finance ministers to help the library and transfer its budget money, the library said in a statement.
“We call on you to help the National Library, as has been done for other bodies and institutions in this economy, so that the library can soon return to its important and vital activity as the national library of the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” they said in the letter, according to the library.
The National Library of Israel, which was founded in 1892, has greatly expanded its collections in recent years and made them available online. In addition, the library has partnered with hundreds of institutions in Israel and around the world, providing access to intellectual and cultural assets that are not part of its physical collection.