I'm Not Buying It for Myself, I'm Getting It for My Nephew

I am not a regular visitor to the Tel Aviv port, but I have the impression that not everyone who was there on the night between Friday and Saturday came for Steimatzky's launch of the new Harry Potter book. On the way I heard people walking to or from their evening's entertainment saying they thought the lights on the quay were "because of some book."

The western quay itself was crowded. There were boys dressed, de rigeur, as wizards: the fashionable picture is one of a boy with a pointed hat, cloak and glasses, standing next to a giggling girl telling the photographers she was not here for the event, but by chance. There were teen boys and girls, parents and children. Because you do not have to read Harry Potter -- and if you are a Hebrew-reading child you cannot, because it has been published only in English -- to be part of the Harry Potter festivities.

J.K. Rowling, the British publisher Bloomsbury and its U.S. publisher Scholastic, as well as Steimatzky and Tzomet Sfarim, whose Ga'ash store was holding a similar event, should pay Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Eli Yishai for the free PR he gave them when he said his ministry's inspectors would fine those selling the books on the Sabbath. I saw no inspectors while I was at the port, although they may have been swallowed up by the crowd of shoppers.

If it is shamefully commercially successful, it cannot be good, one well-known Israeli author explained to me. So she was there to buy a book for her nephew. I was at a disadvantage in the debate, because I had read the books, an act known to bias proper literary evaluation.

Among those drinking sparkling wine I could see the screen counting down the seconds to the hour of publication, although everyone knew that in the U.S., 1,200 readers had already received their copy in the mail. Then everybody shouted "ten, nine, eight, seven..." as if a spaceship were taking off. A pile of books in the VIP section stood there, diffidently guarded, but no one dared touch them until the moment had arrived.

On my way to the car I saw the commander of the Tel Aviv police district with his staff watching the events and receiving a briefing. The voice of J.K. Rowling could be heard (the TV screen was blocked by the crowds) reading the first chapter. Lord Voldemort is back, and he rules.