Aliyah profile: A French connection

There is no future for the Jews in Europe. The situation of the Jews in Europe is catastrophic. I didn’t want to give this future to my children – to live with constant fear.”

DAVID SUISSA, 58 FROM PARIS TO ASHDOD, 2014 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘I had no reason to come to Israel, because I had my job and my company in France.”
Born in Casablanca, Morocco, David Suissa grew up in Paris, and worked in development and sales for some of the leading designers in the world of French haute couture, including Kenzo, Francesco Smalto, and Corneliani. In 1999, he left the fashion industry and traveled to Bordeaux, the largest wine-growing area in France, where he embarked on a career in high-end winemaking. He explains that there are many similarities between high-end fashion and quality winemaking.
“Fashion is fashion and wine is fashion. Fashion is culture, and wine is culture. Fashion is luxury, and wine is luxury.”
But in creating wines, Suissa had more in mind than fashion, culture and luxury. He wanted to improve the quality of kosher wine in France.
“I always heard that kosher wine was not of a high quality. I said, ‘Let’s make the best kosher wine ever and make it properly.’”
Suissa trained under the top winemakers in Bordeaux and soon began selling his high-end kosher wines throughout the Jewish world.
Suissa was an active participant in Jewish life in Paris, living “an intense Jewish life, attending synagogue and studying.” Yet, by 2013, due to the rising tide of antisemitism in France, he no longer felt secure living as a Jew in Paris. “
There is no future for the Jews in Europe. The situation of the Jews in Europe is catastrophic. I didn’t want to give this future to my children – to live with constant fear.”
In 2013, he began to consider aliyah. He decided to sell his business and move to Israel the following year.
“By the summer of 2014, when they were ready to move – Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Gaza War – began in early July. “With the war going on, we had to decide what to do.” Suissa and his family decided to come to Israel, despite the war.
“We had a crazy aliyah. When we left France, I said to my children, we are going to move to Israel, and it’s going to be beautiful. They were very excited, and after we arrived, the first thing they heard was a siren. I had to run and take all the children to safety, and my son saw the missiles in the sky. It was crazy.”
Suissa and his wife and five children moved to Ashdod, which has a high percentage of French olim, as well as relatives from both sides of their family.
“I wanted to leave Paris. I had been living there for 40 years. I wanted calm, without the police on my back. I just wanted a quiet town with no traffic, next to the sea. It was a paradise for me.”
After arriving in Israel, Suissa spent two years probing and analyzing the wine industry before creating Ephod Winery.
“I decided to produce my own wines. I understood the place, the climate and the facilities. I wanted to say something with my wine. I want to make wine that gives pleasure.”
Suissa’s wines are currently being produced in Kfar Ruth, near Modi’in, but he says that he would like to eventually build his own winery.
“I discovered new grapes and a new climate. It’s a great pleasure for me and it fits my passion.”
Suissa says that the Ephod name relates to the special garment worn by the High Priest in the temple. For Suissa, the bottle represents the covering, or garment, “and the wine is the holy thing.”
Enthusiastic about his craft, Suissa, says, “My wines are me. when I put a wine on the market, it’s not a wine. It’s David Suissa.”
Ephod Winery currently produces a variety of red wines, including Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz, that are sold throughout the country.
SUISSA SAYS that his children have picked up Hebrew easily and are well-integrated into Israeli life in Ashdod. Offering a tip for new olim – especially those coming from France – he says first and foremost that new immigrants must learn Hebrew.
“Many French immigrants don’t go to Ulpan. The language is very important. It is the first requirement. The second tip is to understand Israeli culture and accept it. We cannot live in Israel like we lived in France. It’s impossible. The mentality is different. If you don’t speak the language, you can’t get close to the people.”
Suissa returns to France for business, as he remains in contact with the Bordeaux wine industry, and still has close relatives living in Paris. He encourages them to move to Israel, but he realizes that aliyah is a personal choice. He has no regrets about his aliyah.
“It is the best decision I made in my life.” Israel, he says, “has fantastic potential and fantastic opportunities, and offers security for Jews.”
On the other hand, he cautions that the disparity between the rich and poor is too high and feels that not enough assistance is provided for new immigrants.
Suissa hopes to build his wine business in Israel and hopes to see the day when Israel will be at peace.
“I hope to be able to give my children the best life possible and see the geulah (redemption). We have to produce the wine of peace, and of the redemption.”
The French word “terroir,” from the Latin word meaning “earth” or “land,” expresses a wine’s sense of place, including the soil, topography, and climate. Suissa says, “It is a beautiful word that expresses everything – the earth where the grapes are planted, the climate, and the know-how.”
David Suissa moved his family from France – the land where terroir originated – to the land of Israel, where he is blending French wine-making techniques with the land of Israel, using the unique flavors of Israel’s earth to create new traditions.