Letters: July 4, 2014

Write to: maglet@jpost.com Only a selection of letters can be published. Priority goes to those that are brief and topical. Letters may be edited, and must bear the name and address of the writer.

Hitchhiking in gush etsion (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Hitchhiking in gush etsion
To hitch or not
Sir, – With children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some of whom reside in the areas most concerned, I was greatly heartened by another grumpy old man having the courage that too few of us have when discussing lifestyles with our offspring.
I hope that after reading Lawrence Rifkin’s “Thumbing rides, thumbing noses” (Grumpy Old Man, June 20), more of the likes of me will openly voice their opinions on the subject with their families.
Sir, – Since the tragic kidnapping of the three yeshiva youngsters, a solution has to be found to curb the terrible spate of attempted kidnappings in Israel.
The main problem of the hitchhiker is in identifying the driver of the car, especially at night, whether he is Jewish or Arab. The latter can easily mimic being a Jew – especially if he speaks fluent Hebrew, wears a kippa or dresses as a rabbi – and then kindly offers a lift to the unsuspecting victim.
It is pretty obvious that on dark, lonely roads the car, and not the driver, is the problem.
A small, cleverly designed luminous emblem could be affixed to either the bumper or number plate, which could then easily be seen by the hitchhiker, even from afar.
The emblems could be issued either with the car’s license and a valid Jewish ID, or purchased at minimal cost at a reputable store or car dealership upon production of an ID card. This is certainly not foolproof by any means, but is still far cheaper than mobilizing a whole army in search of kidnappers.
Sir, – One of the things that leads to hitchhiking is the fact that the transportation system in Israel is built in and around major cities. It is not built to serve settlements in outlying areas. One cannot travel by public transportation from Efrat to Tekoa or from Efrat to Kiryat Arba without spending a great deal of time and encountering difficulties.
Those of us who live in major cities cannot imagine what it is like to go from Mitzpe Yeriho to nearby Ma’aleh Adumim.
It is just not possible to do so directly without a car. The yeshiva boys who disappeared really needed to hitchhike. How were they to get to Talmon or Nof Ayalon without transportation? What is necessary is thinking outside the box. I want to propose that every community organize a transportation system that operates inside and between communities. One would then be able to go from Efrat to Tekoa, or from Mitzpe Yeriho to Ma’aleh Adumim, or from Kfar Etzion to Talmon.
These vehicles would connect to major bus routes, and because they can take 20 to 25 people at a time, they would run frequently.
Let us think together as to how best to save the people of Israel, so that no parent has to suffer the agony of having a child who depends on hitchhiking.
Sir, – Since the kidnapping of our three teenagers, who were abducted after accepting a ride, there has been much discussion of the dangers of hitchhiking – with the majority opinion seemingly frowning on the practice in general.
As one who hitchhiked all over England as a teenager, I would be sad to see this practice eliminated out of fear.
The benefits are significant, not only for the rider, who may well not have any reasonable alternative, but also for the driver, who benefits by knowing that he or she has performed a mitzva by helping another human being.
I spoke to my grandson, who learns in a yeshiva in Mitzpe Yeriho and often hitches home. He told me they are only allowed to hitch a ride within the community, not on the highway.
This seems reasonable. However, the guard at the gate is not very diligent; I have often driven in, merely slowing down at the gate and waving cheerfully to the guard before driving on. A respectable- looking stranger with a reasonable story can easily get in, and then exit with a passenger.
It is time to establish a code of behavior to minimize risk.
Today, no one travels without a cellphone, so standard procedure should be for the hitcher to take a quick picture of the car, including the license plate, and another of the driver and his identity card or driver’s license.
Having assured oneself that the driver’s face matches the picture on the identity card, it should be safe to accept the lift. If the driver balks, it is best to reject the offer of a ride.
A further precaution should be a quick phone call to one’s parents or a friend, passing on the information thus obtained.
Obviously, risk cannot be completely eliminated, but making it so much harder for kidnappers is worth the minute or two that would be required.
Ma’aleh Adumim
Vital for ‘hasbara’
Sir, – Brenda Katten (“News in English: Vital for ‘hasbara,’” Opinion, June 20) reiterates calls made for decades for a 24-hour English- language TV news station emanating from Israel, charged with redressing the imbalance of networks and stations like Al Jazeera (from Qatar) and PressTV (from Iran), which disseminate anti- Israel views day after day around the globe. In the UK, both are freely available to the 10 million subscribers of the Sky network, as well as millions more who subscribe to various cable channels.
Back in 2011 there was much talk of Israeli billionaire Alexander Mashkevitch financing just such a 24- hour TV news station, but that project seems to have fizzled out. Since then, however, i24 News went on air in July 2013. Owned by Patrick Drahi, a Franco-Israeli billionaire with a considerable media empire, i24 news is based in Jaffa and broadcasts in three languages – English, French and Arabic. At the moment it is available in Israel only via the Internet, but it is widely available in the US and across Europe via cable providers.
There is no need to reinvent the wheel. As part of the reconstitution of radio and TV operations in Israel, the government needs to conclude a deal with Drahi that would bring i24 News to Israeli TV viewers and help ensure that the station gets the widest possible global coverage.
Beit Shemesh
Sir, – Katten’s opinion piece echoes a cry for help from English speakers in this country who want to make Israel’s case to the English-speaking world.
Television and broadcasting are our connection with this world, and our voice is alone among all those whose propaganda is making us look like monsters.
We need to enhance and raise the standard of these programs, not eliminate them. It would be a catastrophe for us English speakers in Israel, and for world Jewry as a whole.
The writer was publicity officer of WIZO UK.
Sir, – Katten’s article on the need for English public diplomacy needs to be distributed to all MKs.
She is so correct in her assessment of the lack of English information available on the Israeli scene. We need to listen to her wise words and act accordingly as soon as possible.
Kfar Dror