Ever wondered how those thought benders manage all those seemingly stunning “tricks?” You know the sort – asking someone to choose a card and somehow getting the card to rise majestically out of the pack, or number guessing. There’s got to be a trick, right? Well, if there is, 35-year-old Shimi Attias is extremely adept at pulling it off, time after time.

Attias has done pretty well in the popularity stakes over the years, appearing on such popular TV shows as The Successor on Channel Two, which was devised by the world’s most famous self-proclaimed psychic, Israeli-born Uri Geller, and also joined forces with fellow mentalist Nimrod Harel in creating the Channel 10 show Bilti Nitfas (Inconceivable).

He also appears regularly on Channel 2’s Mi Yapil et HaMaster (Who Will Knock Out the Master), hosted by comedian Eli Yatzpan and, today, he puts on shows all over the country, with his next taking place this Friday, at Givatayim Theater, at 10 p.m.

Mind you, all that media coverage didn’t necessarily mean Attias was everybody’s star.

“At that time, I remember, at some stage I was on TV, on different channels almost every day, and also on radio,” he recalls, “and one day, a neighbor bumped into me and said: ‘how come we don’t see you these days?’ That was really funny.”

Local media-abstainers aside, the truth is Attias has maintained a pretty high profile for quite some time.

Naturally, Attias does not reveal exactly how he does his thing, but he repudiates any claims that he has special powers.

“Psychology and intuition come into it, but there is nothing supernatural about what I do,” he declares. He is also aware of the impression his turns have on people, and that there is always the temptation to use his skills with less healthy intent.

“I have had all sorts of offers to help people predict the result of soccer matches,” he says, which of course could point some desperate punter or other in the direction of a Toto jackpot, but Attias says he steers clear of misusing his skills for that sort of financial gain.

The closest he got to that was around five years ago when he forecast the outcome of a Premier League game between Maccabi Haifa and MS Ashdod, who the scorers would be, when the goals would be scored, and even that there would be a red card in the 51st minute. The latter feat brought Attias kudos from a highly respected source.

“Uri [Geller] is very good at helping teams win, but he gave me a lot of compliments for the Maccabi Haifa-MS Ashdod forecasts, especially the fact that I foresaw the precise minutes in which the goals were scored, and that a player would be sent off,” says Attias with more than a hint of pride.

In fact, Attias had long aspired to predict the results of soccer matches, and incidents during the games.

“It was a childhood dream to do that, since I was about 13 or 14 years old,” he recalls, “I remembered I planned exactly how I’d do it.”

But one of the dangers of stunning the members of an audience is that, over time, they become accustomed to spectacular stunts and the expectation level rises. That necessitates upping the ante.

“Israeli audiences are really tough to please,” observes Attias. “When I was on The Successor with Uri Geller I said we needed to do something extraordinary. I mean, all sorts of people were doing telepathic stuff.”

So he did something quite amazing.

“I stopped my pulse for the first time,” he states. “There was a lot of fallout over that, and there were even discussion about it in the Knesset. I almost died on live TV, and my mother almost fainted. I did all sorts of dangerous stunts, with fire and with a straitjacket.”

Eventually, however, domesticity took over.

“My wife doesn’t allow me to do stuff like that anymore,” says the mentalist with a smile.

Attias may have harbored big dreams as a teenager but he had to deal with a particularly tough hurdle as a kid.

“I had dyslexia – you know, in the Eighties they didn’t really know about that – I had problems with coordination and dyslexia.”

Watching Attias perform his polished act today, that’s a little hard to believe.

“Yes, considering what I had to deal with as a kid, what I can do today is really like a miracle – they are two extremes.”

Attias’s mother sent her learning-disabled son to all sorts of extra-curricular activities, in an effort to hopefully kickstart something that would help him overcome his educational difficulties, but in fact it was his father who unwittingly set Attias on the road to where he is today.

“My father was a sailor and he’d bring me all sorts of presents from his travels,” explains Attias. “One time he brought me a magic set. And the rest, as they say, is history.”

The youngsters started performing magic tricks for the family and friends and was delighted with their response.

“It really started taking off, and I was just happy that people were impressed by what I was doing,” notes Attias.

Attias’s parents were naturally delighted that he’d found something he could excel at. He started making twice-weekly trips from his home in Haifa to Tel Aviv, accompanied by his mother, to study with an experienced magician.

He made rapid progress and it wasn’t long before he began to come to wider notice.

Today, Attias is happy with his popularity, and also that he has made it so far.

“When I was small, one teacher told my mother that nothing would come of me. I think I have achieved closure on that.”

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