Veterans: Eallan Hirshfeld, 65

From London to Ra’anana, December 1979.

Eallan Hirshfeld 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eallan Hirshfeld 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eallan Hirshfeld wears many hats – businessman, inventor, political activist, wanna-be Knesset member, soup-kitchen originator and synagogue founder are just some of them. Married to Esther and with two daughters, Keren and Sarah, the family made aliya from London exactly 30 years ago and settled in Ra’anana.
For more than 20 years he was a partner in the biggest air-conditioning company of the time. Today he is CEO of HearTech, the company which markets the ear plug he invented. He proudly displays his product which is exported all over the world. It’s a small silicone plug held by a tiny protruding handle which stays outside the ear. The idea is to not have to handle the part of the plug which fits into the ear to block out sound, thus making it much more hygienic and effective than the old-fashioned wax or sponge type. Not a bad invention for someone who qualified as an accountant.
Coming here was a return to his roots for the 65-year-old Hirshfeld, who was born in Kenya and raised in the UK. His grandfather had gone to South Africa from Europe, heard of Theodor Herzl’s Uganda plan, and moved to Kenya where a Jewish enclave was already established. When he decided to marry, he came to Eretz Yisrael and visited Rishon Lezion, where he knew people, to look for a wife.
He took his wife back to Kenya and Eallan’s mother was born there. She met and married his father when visiting family in Rishon and stayed long enough for his older sister Ora to be born in Israel. In August 1939 the family returned to Kenya, where his late older brother Tikki was born, and Eallan was born there in 1944. He was sent to the now defunct Carmel College in England to receive a classic British education.
The family went straight to the Ra’anana Absorption Center and Eallan found work as an accountant. Three years later he joined Beit Hamazgan and his air-conditioners went all over the country.
Being observant, the family joined a synagogue and then another one, and when they couldn’t find one they really liked, they decided to found their own.
“I’ve always been a regular shul-goer and I was never accepted into other shuls,” he says. “Israelis don’t like foreigners, and in those days there weren’t as many Anglos in Ra’anana as there are today. When I hadn’t had an aliya for more than a year, I decided to leave.”
The community he founded, Shivtei Yisrael, is today a thriving synagogue with mixed Anglo and native membership and immigrants from many other countries. Originally housed in the Moriah Synagogue, it quickly grew and eventually enough money was raised to be able to construct a separate building.
Hirshfeld was also instrumental in starting Beit Tavshil to bring food to the hungry. Today he is mostly involved in fund-raising for the charity, which provides a hot meal every day to about 100 families in Ra’anana’s less affluent population.
At about the same time as he started his own synagogue, he got involved in politics, running on the Independence party list in the 1981 elections. Of course he did not have a realistic position, and there was little chance he would ever become a Knesset member. It was much later, at the time of the Oslo Accords, that he became active. Always a passionate believer in the idea that a Jew can live anywhere in the Land of Israel, he had a strong gut feeling that the agreement was a recipe for disaster and could not understand the general euphoria surrounding the signing of the accord.
“I was in a complete depression,” he recalls.
His answer was to organize a billboard and bumper sticker campaign against the agreement and join the weekly demonstrations at the Ra’anana junction. At the end of 1993 he began organizing monthly visits to Hebron to celebrate Rosh Hodesh. “It’s been going strong since then and next year we’ll celebrate our 200th prayer gathering in the Cave of the Patriarchs,” he says. He also opened a shop in Jerusalem selling products from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, a business venture which lasted for two years.
“When we first came, I couldn’t find any fault with the country, I loved it so much. But now I find the lack of manners off-putting and the driving atrocious.”
“I think probably the freedom. In no other country in the world are you as free to say what you want, whenever you want. Children walk the streets without fear – it’s the only country in the world where that happens.”
“Don’t go and live in an Anglo community if you want to know Hebrew. It’s vital you should, because without speaking, reading and writing Hebrew you miss out on a huge amount that goes on in the country, and that’s a tragedy.”