(photo credit: Ariel Schalit/AP)
Forty-four eighth-graders from Weston, Florida, assembled Sunday morning at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv to pray for the recovery of Daniel Wultz, the 16-year-old Weston resident who was critically wounded two weeks ago in the suicide bombing at Tel Aviv's old central bus station.
Wultz regained consciousness last Tuesday. His condition, according to hospital officials, continues to be serious but stable and he is still fighting for his life.
Medical Center Director Gabi Barbash spoke to the group in the synagogue at Ichilov hospital.
"We have learned that in cases like this it is not only the battle of the person himself and of the medical staff," Barbash said. "The love and support of others make a difference, and your visit here touches our hearts."
Barbash told the group that upon arrival at the hospital, Wultz was operated on for 12 hours, during which time his entire blood supply had to be changed three times. He has since had another four operations.
The group of students from the David Posnack Hebrew Day School, where Daniel is a 10th grader, arrived here last week as part of the eighth grade's annual trip to Israel.
Tuly (Yekutiel) Wultz, who was lightly wounded while seated beside his son at the eatery where the bombing occurred, also spoke to the students.
"We're very lucky to be in this hospital, which is fighting so hard for Daniel's life," he added. "We know he is strong, and we don't give up."
"We feel very strongly about coming to show our support for Daniel and wish him a full recovery," said Laurence Kutler, the school's headmaster. Kutler said that there had been some nervousness among parents about security measures during the trip.
Nevertheless, he said, "We didn't want the terror attack to deter the students from coming to Israel, which some of them are visiting for the first time."
Prior to their arrival at the hospital, students in the group told The Jerusalem Post, they had placed notes with prayers for Wultz's recovery between stones in the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
"We are always thinking about him," said eighth-grader Danielle Hadar.
"We were a little scared, but we still wanted to come on the trip, and we feel safe here," added another student. "We came to the hospital because we know how much it means to Daniel."
Speaking later to the press outside the intensive care unit where Daniel is hospitalized, his father talked about the bombing.
"Unfortunately, I remember everything," he said. "Daniel was thrown into my hands, and asked me to pick him up. But when I saw the extent of his injuries, I laid him down to wait for an ambulance. I held his hand and told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me."
The support of the hospital's medical staff, of family and friends, and of the thousands of strangers who have been praying for Daniel's well-being had been giving Daniel the energy to keep fighting, according to his father.
"We just want everyone to keep praying and sending a positive message," Tuly Wultz said.
Dr. Dror Sofer, chief of the hospital's trauma unit, told reporters that Daniel suffered a series of complex wounds, which required treatment by a staff of specialists.
"He has managed to cross out of the acute phase," Sofer said. "But he will still be here for a long time, and we still don't know the outcome."
Daniel's mother Cheryl was on her way to meet her husband and son when the attack took place, and has been at his bedside ever since. His sister Amanda, a college student at Tufts University in Massachusetts, arrived in Israel with Cheryl's mother, Margie Cantor, several days later. Additional family members from the US have also arrived to offer their support.
Caryn Zadik, a friend of the Wultz family from Florida, had come to Israel with her family to celebrate her son's bar mitzva, which the Wultz family was also planning to attend before the bombing. She has remained in the country for the past two weeks to assist her friends.
The amount of strength required of family and friends to persevere during this difficult time, she said, "pushes the limits of human ability." At the same time, she said, they had been receiving overwhelming support both in Israel and back in the States.
"Daniel decided about a year ago to become more religious," she said. "My belief is that somehow he knew he would need that strong faith for some future event."