A Hitchhikers Guide to Judea and Samaria

 While teaching evenings at a girls' overseas program in Jerusalem, I was once asked where I live.
"Eli," I answered, ready for the next question that will surely follow as the night the day:
"Where's that???"
"About forty five minutes north of Jerusalem". A short calculation helped them to realize that Eli was over the "Green Line", in Samaria.
"How do you get home, drive?"
"I don't have a car, but I don't have a license, either. There's a natural equilibrium: no license – no car." Their astonishment would release a torrent of questions:
"Why don't you have a car?"
"How do live like that?"
"How does your WIFE live like that? Does she drive at least?"
Sometimes I'd joke that we sold our horse and buggy, but have yet to buy a horseless carriage. Sometimes I'd say we can't afford a car; rarely would I mention a youthful idealism about air pollution, carpools and public transportation.
"Then how do you get home?" they chimed.
Wearing what I hoped was a serious expression, I'd say: "As God took out the Israelites from Egypt with an outstretched hand – so too, do I go home," and strike a hitchhiker's pose. In Israel you don't stick out your thumb to hitchhike – you extend your hand and then your index finger.
"Hitchhiking?? Isn't that dangerous?"
I'd nonchalantly reply: "Either I'll get home safe or I'll become famous. It's a win-win situation," though quite assured in fact that I'd never become famous for any reason! After the moment it took them to figure out the import of what I'd just said, I'd reassure them that hitchhiking is more customary in Israel, especially in Judea and Samaria, than in the US today.
Of course not every Jew who lives in Judea and Samaria hitchhikes – after all, if no one drove how would the hitchhikers get anywhere?! And there is relatively good public transportation, but it's in the nature of things that a bus ride has stops along the way and takes longer than a car ride, so people prefer to go by car, either to drive or to hitchhike.
Every morning you can see students, schoolchildren, and adults bunched up at the major bus stop of our town, waiting either for a school bus, public transportation or, most likely, hitchhiking. Almost throughout the day and night someone will be trying to hitch a ride. Our town website has a virtual bulletin board where people post where they're going and when, offering a ride, or where they wish to go, asking for one.
It's such a common practice that there are etiquette rules for hitchhikers: waiting in line, exceptions to the "first-come-first-go" rule, how to take a ride (be polite and quiet; turn off cell-phone; don't tell the driver what to do or how to drive!). In every Jewish town in Judea and Samaria it's common for people, from teenagers to senior citizens, to stand at recognized "hitchhiking stops".
Often the hitchhikers don't even have to stretch out a hand; drivers will pull over, open their passenger side window and call out their destination:
Beit El!"
"Shilo, but I'm stopping for gas on the way"
These are all names of Biblical cities in the Holy Land that are once again thriving Jewish communities.
The basis of the whole system and regularity of Jewish hitchhiking in Judea and Samaria is twofold: general kindness and a spirit of idealism, wanting to give and do for the good of others and for the country in general. You don't really have to try to stop drivers – ask for a lift – they mostly stop for you, wanting to do a favor to a complete stranger. A friend stopped once for an elderly Arab, who got into the car without checking out the driver, and only upon hearing the driver's Jewish accented Arabic did the astonished fellow see that he'd been picked up by a Jewish driver!
Of course there are safety guidelines, but nothing in connection with roads is foolproof.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door," Bilbo Baggins used to say.
Jewish law says: whenever you take to the road pray for a safe trip, which is what I wish to all of you, too!