Hitchhiking still 'a way of life' for victim of kidnap bid

"Life must go on"

Until last Thursday, Hadas Mann was an average teenage girl from Beit El. Since then she has survived a kidnapping bid and had her story recorded by numerous publications and television stations. Hadas, a 14-year-old student at the Ma'aleh Levona high school, was waiting at the hitchhiking post at Rehelim Junction with a friend when three men in a car approached them, stepped out of their vehicle, and threatened the girls with a loaded handgun. Hadas, who escaped injury by running away and hiding in bushes by the roadside until the kidnappers left, is recovering from her ordeal a few days after the incident, and even hitchhiked home from school on Sunday, because "it's our way of life." Her close friend, Emuna Shahar, who was actually abducted by the kidnappers, but was rescued soon after and only suffered light injuries, is recovering at home. Many critics of hitchhiking have used the attempted kidnapping to speak out against the practice employed by thousands every day. The IDF specifically warned against hitchhiking at isolated and unprotected spots in the West Bank. According to Hadas's father, Hillel Mann, a large proportion of the 40,000 or so Jewish residents between Nablus and Jerusalem hitchhike daily because it is their "main mode of transportation." "What else can we do?" Hadas's mother, Nina, asks. "Hadas finishes school between 2 and 3 [p.m.], and the bus doesn't come until 6." In addition to having to wait around after school, the bus ride takes an hour and a half, while hitchhiking from school to her home in Beit El takes Hadas around half an hour. "We pay NIS 700 per month to hire a private driver to take Hadas to school in the morning," Nina said. It would be impossible for the Manns to pay double to get their children home from school as well. The Manns are no strangers to terrorist violence, as Nina's brother Ya'acov "Kobi" Zagha, a 40-year-old father of six from Avnei Hefetz was shot and killed in a terrorist attack in 2004. While attending a study session led by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner shortly after her brother's death, Nina learned to make the best of even the toughest of situations. Hadas has learned from her family to make the best of situations in her life as well. "I cried a lot in the beginning and on [Friday] when everything sank in." She slept in late on Shabbat, and is now feeling better. Asked what else would make her feel even better, Hadas replied, "I want to see Emuna." For Hillel and Nina, the situation is as frustrating as it is scary. Although their children serve in the army and volunteer for national service, according to Nina, "it seems like we haven't seen the army since the withdrawal from Gaza." However, no matter how hard life might get for the Manns, they never forget what Nina learned from Aviner shortly after her brother's murder. As she said, "Life must go on." For Hadas and her friends, a party on Monday celebrating the girls' escape was an example of their way of moving on. The local resident, an IDF company commander, who rescued Emuna and Hadas, was the guest of honor.