Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kidnapping, Hitchhiking, and Blaming Victims

We have a situation here in Israel. If you listen to Sky News it all started when Israel went looking for its boys.  Actually it all started when three teenagers were abducted whilst hitching lifts to get home from their schools after their week of studies. They have been missing for almost a week. The last contact was when one of the boys phoned the police and whispered, "they've kidnapped us, they've kidnapped us," before being cut off.

The whole country is in shock, it could have been any of our sons. There are ongoing prayers night and day, in Jewish communities around the world as well as in Israel. #Bringbackourboys is on everyone's lips and fb page.

You have to understand that Israel has a long (and romantic) history with hitchhiking. Transport to
outlying areas is sometimes sporadic and everyone does it. Well not me. And not the many people who realize that we are not living in the Israel of the 1970s. Back then we were all one big happy family all pulling together. Probably we weren't but it felt like we were. Now we are part of the global village that does not encourage hitchhiking anywhere. We have also grown up about the fact that there are also Jewish Israeli murderers same as anywhere else.

And still 'we' do it because having made the decision to live in the countryside where buses are few and far between, we have to live an acceptable quality of life. And if everyone in the village is doing it you'd be stupid not to, right? In defense of the people who actually live in outlying areas, they do know most of the drivers travelling in and out so they can usually hitch with an acquaintance at least.

However, due to the cheaper land and lack of jobs in these places, it is popular for schools, colleges, and other educational programmes to be located in outlying areas. Of course hitchhiking is the norm, the teachers' own families do it, their own kids do it. So while students may be encouraged to take the regular buses, which may not travel at convenient times for the school day, they are not forbidden from hitching lifts.

As you can imagine there is a lot of talk about this issue at the moment. No one is blaming the boys (the victims) for only doing what everyone else does and something their schools condone (or at least turn a blind eye to). This is an issue which needs addressing. The army banned soldiers from hitchhiking 20 years ago after Nachshon Wachsman was abducted and subsequently killed. So it's not safe for trained soldiers to hitchhike but ok for teenagers. You see the problem here?

Unfortunately anytime the H word is mentioned it is met with a barrage of indignation about blaming the victims. Ridiculous analogies are quoted about blaming scantily dressed, inebriated women out alone late at night in seedy areas for being raped rather than blaming the rapist. Well it doesn't stop me from wanting to educate young girls to dress appropriately and not wander alone in such places at such times. You can have compassion for the victim and encourage safe habits at the same time. In fact, it's essential to do so. I also support all the gun law reform campaigns in the US whenever there is a school shooting.

Other comments argue that this is not the time to deal with the hitchhiking issue as we should all be concentrating on bringing back our boys. Whilst I wouldn't take the army or the police off the case to campaign for a stop to the hitchhiking culture, for those of us who can only pray for a good outcome, it is not hindering the search to strike a blow against hitchhiking while the iron is hot.

The third argument is that us townies don't understand. It's perfectly safe if you are careful and follow certain guidelines. We have no choice. You are being simplistic. To them I say, you have a choice. I knew that if I chose the very inviting community lifestyle of a small town or village, I would have to own a car. When my daughter was born I had to weigh up the benefits of a small close-knit community out in the fresh air of the countryside and being her taxi driver when her social life kicked in versus life in the smoke, no car, smaller living space for our money, etc... but good transport.

I get it that if you've built your house and invested your life in such a place then you are going to be sensitive about this issue. You are sort of stuck with it unless you uproot the whole family and start a new life. I get it but it's still your choice and something to be decided within your family.

My beef is with the educational institutions who do not take responsibility for the safe passage of their students. School buses (the parents would have to pay if they chose that school) at convenient times is one solution. It would have to be accompanied by strict no-tolerance policies about hitchhiking. They won't do it of course unless parents start rejecting the programmes that run with inadequate transport solutions. If there were no students coming, the schools would be forced to find solutions or close.

The Government is already making a start by allocating funds for better bus services. We all need to get on this bandwagon before another tragedy like this occurs. While writing this post I have not stopped thinking about those boys and praying for their safe return. I ache for their parents and the suffering they are going through. It is precisely because of this that I want to promote a safer way to travel in this country.

These are the mothers of the three boys who met for the first time this morning. 


  1. I never hitchhiked, but plenty of people did when I was young. Has it got more dangerous? Or is it just more likely that we hear about the tragedies now? Saying that I really really hope that these boys come home soon, their parents must be going out of their minds with worry x

    1. I used to hitchhike in Israel in the 1980s because it was an accepted mode of transport. I don't know if it's more dangerous now - probably it was dangerous then too.

  2. In the US in the 50s hitchhiking was (I think) fairly commonplace, but by the time I was growing up in the early 70s we were firmly taught never to hitchhike. I imagine in rural and isolated areas it's still done.

    1. We were also forbidden from hitchhiking in England but I did it once anyway. When I cam here in the 1980s it was de riguer so I did it too. Maybe I'm just middle aged and no longer believe in my own immortality (or anyone else's immortality).

  3. Exactly. Lots of people hitchhiked when they were young, and when we get older, smarter and more nervous realize that maybe it isn't such a good idea after all. Even if schools and parents were to ban hitchhiking, many teenagers would not listen. Teenagers are not known for sticking to the rules.

    1. You are right but it's not acceptable to say everyone is allowed to do something known to be dangerous just because some teenagers will do it anyway. And if there was adequate transport they wouldn't have to except on rare occasions.