Carmi Or
Carmi Or Age 37, mother of three boys, lives in the community of Yakir in Samaria, works as a financial coach. Wednesday 13.1.16 No comments 2317 views

I’m On My Way, I Don’t Know Where I’m Going…

It’s almost midnight and I’m returning from a long business meeting in Tel Aviv. I reached the city by train to avoid the morning rush hour traffic, leaving my car at Yarkon Junction. Just before getting on Highway 5 and rushing home, I stop to pick up hitchhikers at the bus stop. There are two people standing there. She doesn’t get in, but he does, heading toward Ariel. Excellent. As I drive, he tells me about the small community where he lives, the municipal issues and how the number of people joining the community compares with the number of those leaving. You always find a mutual friend in these situations. He gets out at the junction before Ariel; an older man with a graying beard and a teenager run toward me. For a second, I feel suspicious, but the smile on their faces when I say “To Yakir” relieves my apprehension. They get in gratefully and after a few questions, it turns out that he used to pray at the synagogue that my grandfather David founded in Rosh Ha’ayin (yes, I am half-Yemenite…). When they get out of the car, he peers at me momentarily and says thoughtfully, “You look a lot like your grandmother Sara.” I’m momentarily enveloped with a warm sense of tranquility and memories of my grandparents, suddenly in the middle of the night.

There are other moments too. Fear. Times when I don’t stop. Driving with my children down the beautiful valley road, I spot a young man in ultra-Orthodox garb at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere. He probably just needs a ride to Emanuel. I don’t stop. In my heart, I say to him, “I’m really, really sorry. I didn’t stop for you. I’m here with my kids and even though we have room, you’re a man at a forlorn bus stop in Samaria, and I don’t take unnecessary risks.” Is it really a risk? I don’t know…

Hitchhiking is normal here. Even children stand at the bus stops. Why? Because it’s very convenient.

There is barely any public transportation to or from our community, but there are a lot of people who drive in and out of the community with available seats in their car, and the arrangement works well for everyone.

In theory. In utopia.

But we are in Samaria, and there are terrorists, murderers and kidnappers here. Sometimes, the reason I don’t stop is that I feel like driving alone that morning with my music and my thoughts, or having an important phone conversation without a few extra pairs of ears.

To stop or not to stop? Ever since I was 20, with the small, jerky Fiat Uno, even before I lived in Samaria, I would stop for soldiers and other travelers at any hour of the day or night. It was an instinctive decision. I would take them all the way to their homes whenever I could.

I remember one gorgeous day last winter. I was driving pleasantly through the Jordan Valley on the road heading toward Beit Shean. An older woman with several bags was waiting at the bus stop; I brought her straight to her house. Or one night, returning from a lecture in a distant community, I saw a teenage boy standing at Kesem Junction. What do you think? That I didn’t take him right to his house in the neighboring community? Leaving him at the junction at 2:00 AM was not an option.

So you may shake your head and say, “Where were that teenager’s parents?” But I don’t judge. I don’t know why he got stuck at the junction at 2:00 AM or who his parents are. I simply pick people up and drive.

The soldiers? True, they aren’t allowed to hitchhike, but I know that someone standing at the junction in the direction of the army base that is right at the entrance of my community needs that ride. Why should I let him bake in the sun or get soaked in the rain when I know that the next bus passing the junction arrives in two hours? So they wink, smile and get in the car. I drop them off a few meters from the entrance of the base so no one will see how they got there. Absurd.

What about my own kids? Getting rides from within the community gates is no problem, because the only people driving are people from our community. Outside, though, I don’t let them hitchhike, and I make sure that they always have bus fare. There are those days, however, when I’m not home and there’s no one to pick them up from the junction near our community. Then I nervously warn them, “Only take a ride with someone from our community,” “I only allow you to wait there if there’s a jeep with soldiers at the junction.” Otherwise, they can continue to the nearby city and wait for me there…and what happens when I don’t know? I don’t know…

It’s a huge dilemma, because on one hand, hitchhiking is great. I was moved to see that someone made a bunch of signs with the names of the nearby destinations and put them at the checkpoint so that anyone could borrow one to hold. It increases their chances that drivers reaching their destination will stop for them. On the other hand, I don’t know what the other hand is…I only know that almost every day, I have passengers in my car and it’s captivating, interesting, sometimes a bit smelly, noisy or quiet, pleasant and colorful…but overall, it’s Israeli.



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