[Sooner or later, most bloggers who write about their Aliyahs post about "tremping", or hitchhiking, here in Israel. Here's my take on it.]:
As a young girl growing up in America, one of the most life-threatening things you could do was hitchhike, or pick up a hitch-hiker. If you did, your name would probably end up in bold, black letters on the cover of the New York Post, where your untimely demise would be described in excruciating detail.
It's not that way here in Israel. Tremping here is a perfectly legitimate way of getting around.
When I was here for my year abroad after high school, we got the knack of tremping down pat. I never hitchhiked alone, but with a group of two or three it was okay. We got rides easily. It seems that many Israelis don't mind giving a ride to two or three eighteen-year-old young women. Of course, we never informed our parents that this had become our most frequent mode of transportation. We knew that this behavior was completely unacceptable in the states, but in Israel it seemed okay, and we never once got into any trouble doing it.
Thank G-d, we have two cars here in Israel (one Isaac gets from work and one is a jalopy we bought for me to get around in), so I don't have the need to tremp. But I often see people looking for rides on my travels. The Israeli sign for "I need a ride" is the index finger pointed out and downward (as opposed to using your thumb as is done in the US). My heart goes out to these people waiting in the hot sun for someone to pick them up.
On my way home from Kiryat Sefer, where I work, there are many chareidi men looking for a ride. Some of the men pull their hand in as soon as they see I am a woman. Others continue to keep their hitchhiking hand out. I never stop, but wonder if they would take a ride from me if I did. Wouldn't that be improper?
I rarely pick people up. Some of these people are women in long skirts and colorful scarfs, or Ethiopian women, or middle-aged men carrying briefcases. They look like they are suffering in the heat of the day and I know it would be a huge mitzvah to give them a ride, even part of their way home. But I am afraid that these people are not who they appear to be. So I avoid eye contact and drive on, always feeling guilty.
My kids have asked me what I would say if they began tremping. I answer that with a question of my own--is this something you feel the need, or want, to do? At this point in their lives they don't need to do it and I also know they would be afraid to do it. Their Israeli-ness is still very raw. I wouldn't be thrilled about them hitch-hiking. There have been ugly incidents. Soldiers are not supposed to be tremping, although many of them do. You just never know.
But still, I feel guilty leaving a fellow Jew when I could be helping them out. I'd love to hear from you guys what you do about tremping. Do you have any rules for yourselves (for tremping, or picking up trempers)?
Or is this an area where I just have to accept my American sensibilities and live with them?