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(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
After taking on the likes of evil Lord Voldemort, teen wizard Harry Potter had no trouble this weekend defeating Shas Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Eli Yishai. Hundreds of fans waited with anticipation to buy or pick up pre-ordered copies of the seventh and final Harry Potter book on Friday night at the Tel Aviv Port, despite threats by Yishai to fine businesses opening on Shabbat to sell the novel.
The first copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was sold at 1:57 a.m., four minutes before the book was scheduled to go on sale worldwide.
Squeals of delight were heard as the first of the eager fans got hold of the much-anticipated book. "After waiting in line for nearly three hours, I finally have it in my hands. The ending of the series is here and it was worth every minute," said 13-year-old Matan Weisbrott from Hod Hasharon.
The launching, organized by Steimatzky, drew fans of all ages, proving that the Harry Potter books are more than a children's series - they are a cultural phenomenon.
The line started forming at 11 p.m. and reached halfway along the pier by the time the book went on sale.
Many people had dressed up for the occasion, donning black robes and witch hats, carrying magic wands and broomsticks and sporting drawn-on lightning-bolt shaped scars on their foreheads.
Magicians, jugglers and human statues costumed as characters from the books entertained the waiting crowds and large television screens counted down the seconds until the book was launched. Copies were piled high, waiting to be picked up, purchased and read.
"This is the first time we've ever done something like this in Israel. We're part of a huge party that's taking place all around the world," said Steimatzky general manager Iris Barel.
"We have thousands of copies waiting to be sold, and many more that have been pre-sold and [are] waiting for the customers to come pick them up from the stores."
Eight-year-old Ariel Goldman from England, who was visiting Israel with his family, came to experience the excitement at the port despite being only halfway through the sixth book. "I can't wait to buy the new book, because then I can continue reading without having to wait to buy the next one," he said.
The big question on everybody's mind was: "How will it end?" Every fan knows that this is the last Harry Potter book. The main characters of the series are all scheduled to graduate from the Hogwarts school of magic and author J.K. Rowling has said that she will not write any more Harry Potter books.
People are expecting a climactic ending, more so because Rowling has already told readers that several of the main characters were going to die.
Days ahead of the international launch, spoilers appeared in newspapers and on the Internet. Rowling addressed her fans, asking them to ignore speculation and wait for the book to come out. She even admonished the New York Times and other publications for giving away aspects of the plot in presale write-ups.
Faced with an end to a series of books that has enthralled them for a decade, Harry Potter fans are divided into two groups: those that plan to finish the book as soon as possible, and those who want to savor the experience.
Israelis who don't read English, however, will have to wait. Barel said that the Hebrew translation won't be out until December.