by Yosef Ben Tzion (Joel Busner) – December 2000
When I was growing up in safe and peaceful Canada friends and family always warned me never to hitchhike unless it was absolutely necessary. “You never know which maniac is in the car”, is the one I can best recall. Later when I moved to the U.S. it was abundantly clear that you just didn’t hitch rides from strangers unless you were looking for trouble. Israel was a different story.
Until recently, if you didn’t own a car, your basic choices in Israel were to use the bus service, private van service, or hitchhike. Recently the state has begun to slowly expand its modern rail system. Unfortunately, that is being done at a snail’s pace (the lack of a good rail/subway system will be the subject of another article). Because of the fact that the paid services are not always available or affordable many people in Israel have become accustomed to ‘tremping’, the slang word for hitchhiking. There are many famous hitchhiking spots all around the country. I remember visiting Israel several years before I moved here and being amazed at how many people hitchhiked as well as how many people picked them up. This simple act of camaraderie was one of the reasons that I longed to live here and be with my people. A lot seems to have changed in lieu of the ‘peace process’.
It became abundantly clear to the average person in the street that the more the State of Israel gave in to pressure for the sake of peace, the less secure he/she felt in those very same streets. The more rights and freedom of movement that have been granted to Arabs both within and without the so–called green line, the more violence on different levels have been committed against Jews in Israel. All of these violent acts have hurt the morale of Jews around the country. Many areas once frequented by Jews are slowly but surely becoming ‘Judenrein’. Of course, the little guy suffers the most. Beginning with the kidnapping and murders of soldiers while hitch hiking, most Israelis fear picking up any hitchhikers today. Many travelers no longer feel safe hitching rides after dark. Fear breeds more fear. It is this type of fear that is destroying the dream of ‘being free in our land’. We may have at least a partial solution during these very trying times.
We at B’Ahavat Yisrael have embarked on a mission of example. We give Jews lifts all over Israel, day and night. Is it that simple? No. It works like this: Every day people from our organization in their travels pick up hitchhikers along their travel routes. On the passenger side of our member’s car is a magnetic sign with our logo, which clearly states in Hebrew B’Ahavat Yisrael ‘One Nation With One Heart’. When a hitchhiking person sees the sign he/she is confident that the driver is not a terrorist. We train our members to ask certain questions in order to be as sure as possible that they themselves aren’t dealing with a potential terrorist. If the driver isn’t 100% comfortable with the potential passenger(s) the lift is avoided. Is this system perfectly safe? No.
This system is a beginning. We will limit the amount of magnetic signs in order to avoid duplication. Once we have enough permanent vehicles on the road we will paint the signs onto the vehicles permanently. The more of these vehicles on the road the more people will be able to travel safely and with greater confidence. On the way from Kfar Saba to Netivot in the south and back to Ra’anana we once gave a total of 25 soldiers lifts in one vehicle alone on that round trip, at least half of them at night. Hopefully soon, we will be able to find a sponsor for bulletproof mini buses in order to give free service to residents in Judea and Samaria, many who are currently suffering from almost complete abandonment.
It is the little guy, the hitchhiker who represents the pulse of the nation. It isn’t some pre–fixed poll by the biased, all too powerful Israeli media. By working together we can give confidence back to the people and G–d willing begin the process of reclaiming our beloved country.