Elie Sutton is both the central figure of his new book, Alien at Home: Divine Intervention and a symbol of the Syrian-Jewish people.
Jews had resided in Syria for over 2,500 years. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were confronted with widespread military conscription into the Ottoman Empire. Then a sharp rise in violent anti-Semitism swept over the country after Israel became a state in 1948. The Jewish people suffered a severe decline in their economic and social conditions and their citizenship, businesses and homes were confiscated. For these reasons, the Jews fled Syria and scattered to foreign lands.
Elie’s father, Selim Menashé Sutton, had the foresight to understand the looming threat upon his family. He devised a plan to export each of his seven sons, one at a time, with the hope they each would find better lives in other countries. Elie was the third of those seven sons. At the age of 20, he was forced to renounce his study of medicine and his dream of becoming a doctor. His father had other plans. Elie was to be exported to China.
In his book, the impact of world events on Elie’s life becomes clear through focused attention on the history of the era, particularly in the Middle East. Elie’s story reveals the resourcefulness, tenacity and moral strength of a man caught up in challenging times. Later, the hand of Divine intervention comes into play and the power of the tight-knit Sephardic-Syrian community pulls him in.
This narrative connects the personal story of a father and his sons, the transplanting of a community noted for its cohesive inner strength, and a devoted husband who will do anything to save his beloved wife.
Elie Sutton devoted countless hours to this project, speaking with writer Bahia Abrams candidly and honestly, answering questions with abounding detail. It is only because of Elie’s brilliant mind and extraordinary memory that Bahia was able to capture his story.