Saturday, September 20, 2008


[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?


Batya said...

I have no choice other than to tremp at times. It was the only mode of transportation available when I worked in Beit El, and one of the reasons I had to leave the job.

When in "comfortable" doses, I enjoy it.

We don't have a car, never did, for many reasons, and at our stage in life we never will; though bli neder, never say never,.

I try to rely on buses, but sometimes that's impossible.

Commenter Abbi said...

The only time I tremped when I was here for the year was when I visited my friends on Midrash u'Ma'seh and went to visit them on kibbutz Tirat Tsvi for Shabbat. The first time I went to visit them, they explained that I was to get off the bus and take a tremp from the tzomet to the kibbutz. I was absolutely terrified- hitchhiking from a highway?

Then when I got there and saw that it was just a road that went down only to the kibbutzim, i felt much better.

Nevertheless, on one visit, some friends and I decided to try and hike to the kibbutz from the tzomet. The sign said 7 km to the kibbutz. We thought, How far can that be? People kept stopping to give us rides and we kept refusing, because we thought it couldn't be that far. Finally, this woman in a van stopped, an olah from Brooklyn who's been here for years, and she said "Get in the van right now, you'll never make it before shabbat!". So we got in- as they say, mom's always right!

As for hitchhiking in the states, my father actually did once pick up a couple with a baby on the side of the road once. They had swapped their car at a swap meet- I can't remember for what. We gave them a ride somewhere and survived- I guess they really were who they said they were.

JJ said...

Even after all these years here, I still can't bring myself to pick up hitchhikers. It's something so ingrained in my psyche that I just can't do it. I guess growing up I saw too many movies of the week where someone hitchhiked and it all went wrong!

My husband has picked up soldiers (I think I'd give a ride to a soldier, I've just never driven by one who needs a ride), sometimes with me in the car. One day my kids will be soldiers (trying not to think about that yet!) and I hope they won't have to work too hard for rides.

I've never tremped, though. Hope I never have to.

Wait, wait, I just remembered, I HAVE picked up someone on the street! I was leaving kupat cholim once and and old lady waved me down and asked me for a ride and I was happy to give her one, does that count?

rutimizrachi said...

We allow the boys to tremp OUT of the yishuv. We ask them to take a bus back in. If they were girls, I would live in a constant state of terror -- but that's only ONE of the many reasons Hashem is letting other nice women raise my daughters (-in-law). He knows I am totally unqualified for the job of coping with female progeny.

My husband and I together pick up trempim. If I drove, I wouldn't pick them up alone. Unfortunately, as we are still "greeners," we tend to profile.

Commenter Abbi said...

rr- one time I was driving in J-m and this little old man practically jumped in front of my car, stopping me and demanded that I drive him down the street to his house. It wasn't violent or anything but it was like "of course you're going to stop, let me in and take me where I want", which of course I did. I joked for weeks after that I was car jacked by an 80 year old man. Only in Israel!

Fern Chasida said...

our year in israel after high school we also trempped all the time and never told our parents. i will give people rides out from our yishuv whether i know them or not and at the tzomet chayalim sometimes i'll stop, sometimes not but i always feel guilty when i don't. i don't mind stopping for girls but once you stop you can't control who gets into the car. once i stopped and this guy got in, sat next to me, and my heart pounded till he finally got out. paranoia? yes. but still. so no easy answers, but i feel your pain.

Baila said...

Do native Israeli women get nervous about picking up trempers as well?

I actually remembered that I have picked up a couple of people, both times when I was at a local, smallish shopping center and the women asked me as I was walking to the car if I was going to a specific place, which I was. For some reason I didn't feel threatened at all.

And I guess if I lived on a Yishuv with people waiting at the trempiada, I'd probably get used to the idea of stopping as well.

Do you guys let your children tremp? Or did you when they were younger?

Anonymous said...

I understand that in Brooklyn, aggressive little old women will hop in a car for a ride home. sort of the americanized version...

When my daughter told me she tremps, I freaked out. No, i'm not proud of my reaction (and she loves to imitate my near hysteria), but I saw a LOT of movies....

Be careful everyone.

aliyah06 said...

I inadvertantly picked up a tremper....I stopped at a red light, and the 80+ old lady on the corner was sure I had stopped for her because she needed a ride to Talpiot, so she just got in and chattered to me in Hebrew, most of which I wholly failed to comprehend.....but I drove her to Talpiot anyway. Didn't worry much about being mugged by someone that age and female....

I would never tremp or pick up most trempers--from my days in the Old Country as a criminal prosecutor, I was too aware that 90% of all hitchhikers have criminal records, and a huge percentage of men who pick up women do so with criminal intentions.

Baila said...

Aliyah--that's what I mean. In America if you hitchhiked or picked up a hiker, you would be probably be raped and killed. But here that rarely happens.

Anonymous said...

Twelve years ago, as newlyweds, Eric and I had the money for a flight to Israel for our honeymoon and that was it. So we tremped everywhere (including into gaza!) we told our parents that we were taking buses (and they were nervous about that)
I remember what it felt like to stand out in the heat hoping someone would stop so now I insist Eric pull over whenever we see a tremper. But would I do it if I was driving alone? If it was a woman, probably, but not for a man. The states are too firmly ingrained in my psyche.