Illusions for the Disillusioned

By Elisha Sauers

Published August 18, 2006, issue of August 18, 2006.
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Magician and stunt artist David Blaine has executed many seemingly impossible feats — burying himself alive for a week, settling into a glass chamber dangling above the River Thames in London, huddling in an ice locker for some 60 hours — but his newest challenge may be too much even for him. This past Tuesday morning, Blaine arrived in Israel, a place where danger is no mere illusion.

Blaine, whose father is Afro-Puerto Rican and mother is a Russian Jew, is showing his solidarity with Israel by partaking in a multi-day magic tour. The excursion is a joint initiative between Blaine’s manager, Yossi Siegel, and the Israeli Consulate in New York.

Among his stops, the magician plans to perform at a hospital for wounded soldiers, an absorption center for Ethiopian immigrants and at the Dir el-Asad Arab village, before heading to the Hadassah Neurim Youth Village, which now also provides shelter for many of the families who have fled the Hezbollah attacks in northern Israel.

In his 2002 book, “Mysterious Stranger,” Blaine recounted how, during one of his past daredevil stunts, he had an epiphany as he looked on at his crowd of voyeurs.

“There were Jewish Hasids standing next to Muslim cabdrivers who were next to black kids. Businessmen in designer suits stood beside heavily pierced street kids,” Blaine wrote. “I saw something truly incredible. I saw every race, every age group and every religion gathered together smiling, and that made everything worth it. I saw magic!”

But even he acknowledges that his sleight of hand has limited reach in the ongoing conflict. When asked if he had any tricks up his sleeve to misdirect precipitating missile shells, Blaine demurred: “I can only do my magic and try to make people smile.”

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