Hitchhiking: A Terrible Idea That Saves You Money

As perhaps you’ve heard, three boys, including an American citizen, were kidnapped this week while hitchhiking in Israel. Hitchhiking used to be a national pastime, a cheap and easy way to get from Point Aleph to Point Bet; though we knew the dangers, even my friends and I did it on occasion, with no ill effects. (I lived there in 2000, before the Second Intifada and the wall and everything, basically the last good time.) Now it’s mostly settlers and very religious people who are tremping (hitchhiking), not just because it’s convenient, but to make a point:

With a vast manhunt under way since early Friday as police and the army search for the three teenage boys abducted late Thursday night, the subject of hitchhiking is on everyone’s minds. The three boys were tremping home from their schools in the West Bank, as is customary. It’s a cheaper, and often more convenient way of getting around than the less frequent public buses. …

S., the high school student, lives in Jerusalem, but attends an all-boys school in Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to Hebron. His parents would prefer that he only take the bus, and have even offered to pay for a private cab, but that’s not an option, he said, even though his parents can afford it. “It’s just not normal to take a cab, no one does that,” he said. “If you’re right-wing or an extremist, you take a tremp. Tremping is the norm.” He said he knows how to identify a safe driver, or fellow hitchhiker. They look like him, he said, pointing to his jeans, polo-shirt and kippah. “If I see someone with a kippah, wearing a tee-shirt with a school emblem and with a backpack, I feel like I know him,” said S.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trusting someone because they look or act like you. (See: Frozen. “We finish each other’s — “ “Sandwiches!” “That’s what I was going to say!”) Especially when there’s an economic incentive. (See: Madoff, Bernie.) And of course everyone thinks their own judgment is solid; we’d have a hard time functioning if we questioned every first impression and gut instinct. How do you thread that needle? How do you decide who to trust with your money or your safety? Do you have any good hitchhiking stories, or is it something you’d never do, never never never, no matter how cash-poor you got?

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