LIOR SUCHARD arrives at our Tel Aviv meeting clad in a leather biker’s jacket with helmet in tow. He is apologetic for his slight tardiness. “Traffic,” he says, rolling his eyes.
It is reassuring that the world-renowned mentalist who travels the globe unveiling one jaw-dropping act after another is still, on occasion, waylaid by daily occurrences such as traffic jams. It makes the man who is famous for superhuman acts, well, pretty human. It is that balance of everyday charm ‒ a young man from Haifa who made good ‒ coupled with his talent for seemingly making himself comfortable in the minds of his subjects that has garnered him world acclaim. He has performed during interludes of Barbara Streisand’s concerts, in front of Fortune 500 companies and is a frequent guest on late-night TV.
But his home, he says, will always be Israel. “I could probably tell you that I could make more money if I lived in New York or LA. But I live here, my family is here. I invite guests here all the time ‒ some of whom are well known,” he declares. “I love to talk about Israel. I love to promote Israel and be an unofficial ambassador. It’s important.”Sometimes the “unofficial” part of his Israel advocacy errs more on the official, as evidenced by his recent series of videos for Israel’s Aliyah and Integration Ministry. In the videos, he speaks with new immigrants fresh off the plane and stuns them with his tricks.Take the video of him asking an unassuming new immigrant what he used to do back in America. “Security,” the immigrant answers. When Suchard repeats the question a few moments later, the young man looks confused. He no longer remembers.It is that potent cocktail of reading acute non-verbal cues, mind influencing, intuition and hypnosis that has made Suchard a household name in recent years. And it was his win on the famed Israeli mystifier Uri Geller’s show “The Successor” 11 years ago that helped pave the way for his international acclaim.Today, he pays the bills with what he calls “infotainment,” incorporating messages specifically tailored to individual companies who pay him to perform at corporate retreats and large-scale events. He performs in style; his Instagram is inundated with images of him on a private jet on his way to blow the minds of the best and brightest of various industries. But you wouldn’t know it by speaking with him. During our conversation, he’s humble and down to earth. He doesn’t think twice about unlocking his phone and letting this reporter browse through his photos of the celebrities he’s encountered. And doesn’t flinch when I accidentally brush his hand with my pen, leaving a large black streak on his thumb. He makes a point of balancing the hefty paychecks he gets from corporations with charity acts. And he is inundated with requests to perform for various causes. “The more you become known, the more requests you get,” he says. “If I said yes to everything, I’d do multiple shows a day. You just can’t.”So Suchard carefully selects organizations that do work that he is passionate about and spreads the wealth as much as possible. One organization he values is Shalva, a Jerusalem-based non-profit that helps children with disabilities.“I do what I do and I’ve been successful and I think it’s very important to give back,” he says. His generosity does not go unnoticed. “Lior is an amazing friend of Shalva and a close personal friend of mine. He is always there for us,” says Shalva chairman Avi Samuels. “I don’t know another person like him who mingles with the stars and is a huge celebrity, and yet so pure like a child. He’s a true model for us of goodness and humbleness.”Perhaps it is the Haifa boy in him who understands that a lot of factors have gone into making his surreal life a reality.“Talent is not enough,” he says, when asked how he became so successful in a brief period of time. “You have to have a variety of elements combined together to succeed. You have to have passion, talent, you have to be... I’ll quote Barbara Streisand who told me I was, ‘charmingly aggressive.’ Because I have my chutzpa,” he says proudly. He wears that chutzpa on his sleeve unabashedly in his acts where he combines his blunt sense of humor with his tricks.Recalling a show where an audience member immediately got up to leave upon hearing that Suchard is Israeli, he says, “I joked and told him, ‘The standing ovation is at the end, not at the beginning of the show,’” he recalls with a smirk. After disarming the audience member with one of his tricks ‒ Suchard asked him to think of the name of a person close to him and then guessed the name correctly ‒ he had a quiet chat with the formerly disgruntled man after the show.“Afterwards, we sat down and talked. I love to talk with people. I don’t get into who is right or wrong, I instead ask, ‘Why are you so angry?’” he explains. “’You can be angry and still visit Jerusalem, you can be angry and still visit the Dead Sea and still see what a wonderful place it is,’” he tells people. It is all part of his passion for not only performing for people but getting to understand them, as well. It is a tool, he believes, that can serve Israel well.“I think that what I do and what Gal Gadot is doing, even the small stuff when she spoke Hebrew on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ it’s diplomacy. It’s very good for us. We need this kind of diplomacy,” he says. He is quick to add, though, that in these talks he attempts to transcend politics and simply give a good impression of Israelis as a people. “You don’t have to take sides. This is our country, we love this country, I’m not making yerida [moving from Israel]. I’m here, I live here, I love this country,” he says. That is not to say that he doesn’t see the humor inherent in politics, especially in today’s climate, which shocks even him. For example, Suchard didn’t foresee a Donald Trump win.“Wow! No, I didn’t, actually,” he chuckles, when asked. He did, however, debunk most Israeli political pundits when he accurately predicted the results of Israel’s 2013 election, which saw Benjamin Netanyahu win another term. Trump, though, is a different animal, and Suchard says he’s out of the prediction game when it comes to politics for the near future. While Suchard doesn’t express his thoughts on Trump the president, he does seem a bit mystified at how the election unfolded.“It’s a big reality show,” he says. “Nobody cares about campaign promises anymore, it’s all about the most interesting personality. They care about the character and story. He was spicy and new, so he won. Now we’ll see if that works over a series of years.”For now, Suchard is focusing his energy on the busy months ahead. The day after we spoke, he was off to China to perform for Alibaba executives. On January 13, he will perform an exclusive one-night-only show on Broadway.“Tell your friends in New York!” he jokes, when asked about the show. Between highprofile events and celebrity encounters, he manages to stay calm ‒ a key skill in his line of work.“In the beginning, I met so many known personalities from politicians to actors to industry-makers, everything. It’s very exciting. It’s like ‘Oh my God, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio!’” he says, recalling the early days in his career when he was awestruck. He remembers the words of Geller, who helped him stay grounded. “’No, you don’t understand, they are excited because of YOU!’” he recalls. Now he knows that by showing celebrities something they’ve never seen he is in a unique position. “Now I don’t get nervous, I get excited. The fear becomes excitement,” he says. In some ways, then, there is something incredibly pure to what Suchard does. It doesn’t matter whether he’s performing in front of Warren Buffett or a Joe Schmoe off the street, the sense of childlike wonder is the same.This reporter witnessed that first hand when he asked me to write down the name of someone I knew. I quickly scribbled down the name of my father, careful to cover my hand in case he’d be able to read my hand movements across the table. Suchard took the piece of paper, tore it to shreds and asked a torrent of brief questions.“This person is a man?” he asked, to which I replied yes. “This is a short name?” I again answered in the affirmative. “Is it Avi, by chance?” It was. And, granted, I could have chosen a less common name in Israel. But would it have mattered? Even in the sea of hundreds of popular Israeli male names, what are the chances that he would guess correctly on the very first try? In that moment, I, like Buffet, Streisand and George Clooney had the same reaction: awe, curiosity and intrigue, mixed with a little bit of fear. Because, let’s face it, what Suchard does is nothing less than terrifying: get into the one place we all consider private ‒ our minds.