Hitchhiking in the South of Israel: The mystery of the broken stories told in the roads

If I look back 5 years in my life, before coming to Israel for my first time, I would never say that right now I would be living in Sderot, one of the cities located in the Southern of the country, more famous for its proximity with Gaza (only 10 km away) and the causalities due to the rockets attacks promoted by Hamas. Even worse, that, in order to commute, sometimes I would hitchhike to arrive faster in some locations in the South, besides the fact of spending less money in the rides.

The hitchhike practice here in Israel, but especially in the South, has proper reasons for its occurrence. The public transportation system is not the most effective one and, even though there are buses lines running out in the roads, it is not like they are cheap, fast or, that when you need to exchange between buses, the following one will arrive quickly. In addition to that, there is the problem that during Shabbat (from Friday afternoon to Saturday noon) simply any kind of public transportation works. If you do not own a private car (my case), there are reasons to choose hitchhiking here in the South.

My story with tremping started more than 2 years ago. For 6 months I lived in a kibbutz which was located even closer to Gaza, approximately 20 km from Sderot. To go out from this place, there were only 3 options of buses in the afternoon, and the last one was at 4 o’clock. When I wanted to leave the kibbutz after this, I did not have any other choice other than hitchhiking.

That is where and why everything started, and I must state that opting for tramps was a very big of a deal for me- Non-fluent Hebrew speaker, women in her 20’s, Brazilian, who grew up surrounded by fear, violence and mistrust among people. In my own home country, I would never in a million years hitchhike, first of all because usually the public transportation system is actually more effective than here, secondly and especially, because I will always be afraid of my body ending up in a dumpster somewhere.

More than two years have already passed from my first hitchhiking experience, and all the stories and testimonies I heard from unknown people during this period were actually quite interesting and intriguing. It is not like I take tramps every day, very far from this, but I estimate to have taken more than 100 rides, only here in the South. Only once I did outside from here, in Jerusalem, but I don’t know the city very well, so without a Jerusalem map if would be hard to get around or to know if the person was taking me to the right direction. The down side of the hitchhiking practice is that I have never had a chance to meet again any of these kind and nice persons who agreed on giving me a tremp for free, and this frustrates me in a way, since I will never know what happened to them. I sit in their cars, talk about myself for a while with my terrible Portuguese accent, listen to them speaking about their lives and then I leave, to never ever see this person’s face in my entire life. I arrive in a point that surely I could barely recognize some of the people who offered me rides.

I am still curious to hear about what is going on with the guy who owned a pub in one of the kibbutzim nearby Sderot, a Dutch bold man who picked me up near Eshkol Regional Council. Or the policeman who rescued me and my friend at a Tuesday night in the Hodaya Junction, near Ashkelon, and took us to a party in Sapir College. Or the spiritual guy whose dream was to live in India and who kindly brought me nearby my house instead of dropping me in the entrance of Sderot. I guess I will never know what the fate kept for them, and the only thing I can have and recall is those moments when our lives got crossed in the junctions throughout the South of Israel.

Although hitchhiking has a very interesting and attracting side- if the criteria is the variety of people and stories you can find- it is also a very chauvinist world, and this is what prevents me nowadays to continue taking tramps more often. I can count on my fingers the number of women who ever stopped for me. At about 90% of my rides were given by male drivers, alone in the cars. Also, because if I noticed that there was more than one man in the car, I would never enter. And, from these men, I can say that more than a half of them asked me questions to know if I was married, if I had a boyfriend and other details about my private life. More than one requested my phone number, which I never conceded, obviously. So it is also true to conclude that, although some people really do it for the gesture, some also see in the rides a way of taking advantage towards alone women.

Now that I live in Sderot, and the public transportation system is not perfect but not as ineffective as it used to be in my ex-kibbutz, I am constantly avoiding taking tremps despite the financial and time wise advantages of this practice. If I do, only here inside the city, or to go to the nearby train station, for example. I must say that, even though I met a lot of nice people and interesting life stories, I do not feel like taking risks (which represents a chance, even if it is a low one) of something bad happening to me in one of these roads, especially in the night.

But, anyway, here in the South of Israel I found that hitchhiking can be something fun, adventurous and a great way to meet and talk with new people who in a regular basis probably I would not have a chance to chat with . Regarding all these stories and memories I collected from the tramps, one side of me says that the best would be to do a follow up to know what happened to these people, while the other tells me that it is better to leave them as they are, as a piece of a moment which I shared with someone at a certain time and that will never return again.

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