Wizard Breaking the Sabbath Israeli Minister Warns Against Harry Potter Sales

The final tale in the global phenomenon that is the Harry Potter series hits the bookshops on Friday night. But in Israel the launch coincides with the Sabbath. Booksellers are pledging to sell the book despite a government minister's warning of hefty fines.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" goes on sale in Israel at 2 a.m. local time, when most businesses should be closed for the Sabbath.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" goes on sale in Israel at 2 a.m. local time, when most businesses should be closed for the Sabbath.

Harry Potter fever is heating up across the world as the seventh and final installment of the boy wizard's tale is due to hit the bookshops on July 21. But in Israel the unfortunate timing of the the launch threatens to overshadow the event. The novel is scheduled to go on sale in the wee hours of Saturday morning -- slap bang in the middle of the Sabbath.

Israeli bookstores have pledged to go ahead with the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" at 2 a.m. Saturday as part of a huge global event. The books are being released simultaneously around the world and the final tale about the teenage wizard and his escapades is expected to be the fastest-selling book in history. "We will hold the launch as planned because we are contractually bound to do so," Alona Zamir, spokeswoman for the Steimatkzy book chain, told Reuters on Wednesday. "The book will go on sale here at the same time as in other places around the world."

The Sabbath runs from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, a time during which pious Jews shun business dealings. Although most Israelis are secular, shops close on Saturday for reasons of tradition as well as to avoid mandatory fines and paying staff overtime.

Eli Yishai, a minister in Ehud Olmert's coalition government, and a member of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, is crying foul over Israel's participation in the Harry Potter phenomenon. The Industry, Trade and Labor Minister said this week that he will send inspectors to see which stores are taking part in the launch.

"It is forbidden, according to Jewish values and Jewish culture, that a thing like this should take place at 2 a.m. on Saturday. Let them do it another day," he told Israel Radio. He said he intends to impose fines on distributors of the book who violate the Hours of Work and Rest Law. "We must put a limit on the desire to imitate other nations," Yishai said on Tuesday. "It is inconceivable that numerous employees will be brought in to allow these events to take place and damage the spirit of the Shabbat."

And another ultra-orthodox politician, Avraham Ravitz of the United Torah Judaism Party, has also slammed Potter-mania in Israel: "We don't have to get carried away like monkeys and imitate the world in this kind of subculture."



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