is probably the only country
in the world where women are thrilled to give a ride to strange men, especially
if they have a gun." That statement, made by my friend, illustrates what
should be the reciprocal relationship between the driver and the hitchhiker.
How the driver helps the hitchhiker is obvious. How the hitchhiker helps the
driver is more subtle. Israel
My first experience with a trampist, as a hitchhiker is called in Hebrew, was in the summer of '84.My husband and I, along with our four children, were spending a month in
Our first stop on our first outing was
. As we finished
our popsicles and were ready to move on, we noticed a handful of soldiers, all
waiting for rides. Jericho
"There's room for one soldier, isn't there?" my husband asked.
Enthusiastic Zionist that we were, no one objected to crowding one more body into the sticky backseat. The soldier positioned his M16 so that it was not aimed at anyone and made himself comfortable. There was little that we, an observant family from
, had in
common with this native-born, bare-headed Israeli. Still, it is always good for
Jews to get acquainted with one another even if they have different backgrounds
and philosophies. As we searched for a topic of conversation, my husband
casually mentioned that we were on our way to Beit Shean. At this point the
soldier got very excited. With his high school English and my husband's
synagogue Hebrew it soon became clear that we were on the wrong road. In just a
matter of minutes my husband had turned around and returned the soldier to the
hitchhiking post. A few more minutes later, the right road was found on the map
and we were on our way, thankful to our trampist to have avoided a long detour. America
Trampists are not only helpful finding the right roads and good shortcuts. I had a rider once who held a throw-up bag for my car sick daughter the whole hour ride to
Another hitchhiker clued me in on a great place to stay for our vacation in the
Golan. There was the time my husband and I, both dressed up to go to a wedding,
had a flat tire. Guess who changed it! The trampist! Jerusalem
Unsurprisingly, relatives in
somewhat scandalized at our calm approach to giving and getting rides.
Tragedies have happened. Nachson Wachsman, the Israeli soldier who was
kidnapped while hitchhiking and murdered in 1994, is a household word.
Thousands remember being at the special prayer service for him at the Kotel and
the failed rescue operation the following evening. Twelve years later Eliayahu Asheri
was abducted from a hitchhiking post and murdered by Arab terrorists. For three days Israelis from all over the
country searched for him, praying he was alive. When his body was finally found
the country mourned and thousands attended his funeral on the third of Tammuz.
Still, hitchhiking in Israel is not the
dangerous exploit it is in America. America
Of course, when our children were growing up we gave them all sorts of guidelines about where they could tramp and from whom they could accept a ride. And, as teen-agers, they did not always listen to our advice. More than once, we drove by some forbidden junction only to see one of our children standing there with his finger out. Although the kid definitely had egg on his face, we did stop for him and he was grateful for the lift.
Tramping and giving rides is a great way to meet people. More than once I have heard stories of drivers loaning their car to a trampist so the trampist could arrive at a wedding or job interview on time. These were always second-hand stories and I had my suspicions about the truth of them. Then my son and his friend were tramping to a small village in the Negev for Shabbat. They had a pleasant ride with a driver from Beersheva. This driver, a fatherly type, worried that they would not be able to get to the village before sundown. The boys insisted that they would. The driver remained skeptical. Finally he announced a solution to his concerns. “Take my car and bring it to me Saturday night.” The boys arrived at the village well before Shabbat.
The most romantic tramping story I know happened to my youngest son. Right before going into the army he borrowed the family car to go to his yeshiva for Shabbat. Sunday morning he stopped at the hitchhiking post. There was only one trampist, a lovely girl who had been in the women’s seminary over Shabbat. She gratefully accepted the ride and they had over an hour to get to know each other. Both were impressed with what they got to know. However, since my son was going into the army, nothing happened with the relationship. They did not forget each other, though and two years later they were engaged. They are now happy newlyweds living in a caravan in Itamar, near the yeshiva and not far from where Eliayahu Asheri grew up. My son is scheduled shortly to begin an officer’s course in the army.
It is my prayer that their commitment to the Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Jewish people, along with the commitment of so many others, will help keep our country safe and all our tramping stories will end as happily as theirs did.