What is an Orthodox immigrant from Baltimore, U.S.A. doing with a case full of balloons, musical instruments and all sorts of gadgets in a hospital for kids in Jerusalem?
The answer is that Michael Tulkoff (aka "Magic Michael") has arrived at Alyn Hospital, the national pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center, to do his weekly session of entertaining the kids. Proudly billing himself as the "only medical magician in the Middle East", Michael also helps out with his endearing clown-like antics in the general pediatric wards of Dana Childrens Hospital in Tel Aviv and the Safra Childrens Hospital at Sheba in Tel Hashomer.
The hospital staffs are very enthusiastic about Michaels impact on the youngsters. As he wanders through the wards he greets every patient by name. Not all of these incapacitated patients are capable of returning the greeting but they acknowledge it with widened eyes.
Just one example of what he achieves is the story of his encounter with a 17-year old victim of cystic fibrosis, a living skeleton attached to a respirator, who used a communication board to spell out that he wants to die. Michael told him a story he liked and then proceeded to build up his self-esteem and raise his spirits with a variety of magic tricks. Before leaving, Michael placed his hand on the youngsters curled fingers as a sort of handshake.
Michael felt good when a visitor sitting next to the boy told him, with tears in his eyes, that this was the first time this unfortunate boy had actually smiled.