Eallan Hirshfeld ... at work on his latest enterprise
Virtually everyone who made aliyah has an interesting answer when asked: How did you come? And why? But few will have arrived by such a roundabout route as Eallan Hirshfeld. Now in his early seventies, he first came in 1949 when he was five, even briefly attending school in Rishon Lezion. But a curious chain of events led to his eventual aliyah 30 years later.
After their marriage, his parents lived in Rishon Lezion; but in August 1939, when the Palestine police found guns in their home, they hastily made their way by boat to join his grandparents who lived in Kenya. As Eallan says, “This was just supposed to be for a short time!” However, once war had broken out, they only managed to return to Israel 10 years later, with their young family, though they soon went back to Kenya where Eallan’s father was a coffee farmer.
Eallan spent his schooldays in England, at Carmel College, a private Jewish boarding school whose Principal, Kopul Rosen, cast an abiding influence upon him. After leaving school he made his life in London, but in 1967 a decision to spend Pesach in Israel turned out to be highly significant. Once Pesach was over, he returned home but was haunted by the memory of seeing preparations for air-raid shelters on Israeli television: “I just felt, you’ve got to go and help. And I decided to go back.”
Eallan reckons he was one of the very first, if not THE first, of the volunteers who in May 1967 put their lives on hold to support Israel during her time of need. “Together with a group of other volunteers, I was seated right at the front of the plane on a regular El Al flight but our area was sealed off from the other passengers.” The following morning, reporting to the Jewish Agency in Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv, he was assigned to Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, to work in the cotton fields.
“There were no males left there at all – they’d all been called to the front,” he recalls. Drawing on farming knowledge from his life in Kenya, he knew how to change an irrigation pipe. (In fact, his father had been the first to introduce irrigation into Kenya.) “It was a help that I spoke reasonable Hebrew. And I also knew how to shoot – again from experiences in Kenya. On our farm in that period, every neighbor of ours except one had been murdered by the Mau Mau.”
It was with a heavy heart that Eallan returned to England after five months; he badly wanted to stay. But as a trainee accountant he needed two further years before being able to qualify. In the meantime he married his wife Esther, and by 1973 they had two daughters.
For the Hirshfelds, the 1970s were to prove a momentous decade. Events such as the Munich Olympics, the Yom Kippur War and Entebbe were inexorably sharpening their determination to live in Israel. They finally made aliyah to Raanana in 1979. His daughters had attended Yavneh Primary School in Wembley, N W London, so it was a particular pleasure to send them to a school called “Yavneh” in Israel too.
Once in Israel, Eallan set about demonstrating considerable versatility in a many-sided career, not only as an accountant but as an entrepreneur and inventor. Firstly, from 1980 to 2005, he was a partner in Israel’s most extensive retail air-conditioning company, Beit Hamazgan, with 25 shops throughout the country.
Then, since 2000, he has developed and patented a specialized earplug, now sold in 20 countries worldwide and manufactured at the silicone factory on Kibbutz Degania Bet. Its unique design not only allows the ear to “breathe”, so that it can be left in the ear for a long time, but it also equalizes pressure on the ears, reducing any chance of pain. It also filters out loud background noise (for instance at weddings) enabling the wearer to carry on a normal conversation.
In 2014, Eallan established his latest enterprise, Driver Israel Ltd., which guarantees fair prices, top quality materials and reliable workmanship when you take your car into a garage for servicing. With a country-wide network of 30 hand-picked garages, all registered by the Transport Ministry, Eallan says that its spectacular savings have already attracted 20,000 customers, boasting a return rate of 90%. As he puts it, “Thanks to Driver’s huge buying power, prices are kept low. From your chosen garage, you get personal support from a small business where the owner is hands-on and keen to serve you well.” This scheme, he says, ensures savings of up to 40% on maintenance and bodywork repairs: and you have a Driver Support Partner negotiating with the garage on your behalf. For more information: www.driver4u.co.il.