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In Memoriam: Eallan Hirshfeld

 Years ago, Ruth and I had the privilege of participating in one of Eallan Hirshfeld's bus visits to Maarat Hamachpela. On the return trip, we stopped for Minchah prayers at Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem. The trip was memorable in every sense of the word. Though I had seen Eallan in Raanana, we did not have a close relationship and that trip was our first exposure to a gentleman who came to mean so much to us.

Several years later, Rosh Hashanah fell in conjunction with Shabbat and we booked the three-day holiday, via Eallan, at the Sharon Hotel. This was the occasion at which our close relationship began. Eallan's program for Rosh Hashanah developed from awareness on his part that some elderly and infirm Jews could not attend services because disabilities prevented them from walking to shul. His arrangement with the hotel provided for a separate dining room, a dedicated synagogue and 50 guest rooms which allowed for the creation of a cohesive group of largely English speaking guests, many of whom had physical limitations. Eallan's attention to detail was amazing. He arranged for chazzanim, Divrei Torah, and rotation of seating assignments so people could get to know each other. He was a presence. He cared. He saw a need and he responded. This is the Eallan whom I came to love and respect.

Many who know us both, were amazed at the relationship. I like to see myself as committed to the Left as Eallan was committed to the Right. The source of our bonding was shared Ahavat Yisroel. I knew that as misguided as his political views might have been, they derived from a deep and abiding love of the Jewish people. He knew that I shared that love. Over the years, we began attending the same Shabbat service at Lehu Raanana Synagogue and began walking to and from shul. Those short walks constitute a moving memory of who Eallan Hirschfeld was. There wasn't a person we passed whom he didn't know. Each one was greeted warmly and personally with some recollection or blessing. Each child received a piece of candy. This took place practically every Shabbat for the last four years of his blessed life.

The Chumash he used every Shabbat was precious. Every Parsha was marked up with questions and comments. When we did talk at the Hashkama minyan, it was only to exchange questions and/or comments on the sedra. He was alert, focused and shared his sometimes astute and sometimes cute Gematria from the Parsha.

On his maternal side, his roots were in Kenya where the family was among the only Jewish estate holders in Kenya. His abiding love of gardening stemmed from both that heritage and the paternal family's background in agronomy. Every Shabbat that Ruth and I visited his garden, he would show us his latest plantings and his newest fruits. His lemons were legendary - large, succulent and delivered to our apartment every Erev Shabbat. He knew exactly how much sun and how much water each planting required. As Yom Ha'atzmaut approached, the prevailing colors in the garden were blue and white. The man's enthusiasm for every aspect of life, never ceased to amaze.

He took tremendous pride in his background and personal heritage. His paternal grandfather was an early settler in Rishon LeZion. Though his grandfather lived in Rishon, he was involved in founding the first Jewish settlement in the Negev, Ruchama. Eallan took great pride in the fact that his grandfather had dug the first Jewish well in the Negev since Avraham and Yitzhak. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of that well, on our return from Hebron, we stopped at Ruchama and visited that well, which still provides water for the Negev.

May 2020 would have marked the 300th monthly bus trip from Raanana to Hebron. One year in advance, Eallan and I started discussing how to mark the occasion. His enthusiasm was contagious but was in this case thwarted by both the Coronavirus and his failing health. He knew that his disease was terminal but his mind, ever active, was always preoccupied with Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.

He will be sorely missed. May his soul and memory be bound up in eternal life.



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Sunday, 19 May 2024

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