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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The problem isn't that they hitchhiked, the problem is that they had to

Living in Jerusalem and owning a car, I have the luxury of telling my children never to accept rides from strangers. But for people living in Judea and Samaria hitchhiking - which I did myself when I was in yeshiva there in the late 70's and early 80's - has become a way of life. The reality is that in many parts of Judea and Samaria, it's almost a necessity.

Two of the three boys who were kidnapped last Thursday night finished their yeshiva week in a typical yeshiva high school (with a dormitory) at 9:30 pm. They each lived more than an hour away by car (assuming a parent had a car and had both the time and the money - gas is double what it is in the US - to come to get them). The only remaining buses (I checked) would have required them to get to different villages in the Etzion bloc... by hitchhiking (one village is fairly close, the other - practically a city - is further away). Those buses go to Jerusalem from which they would have had to get an additional bus home... if one was available.

While hitchhiking from the security gate of a Jewish town in Judea and Samaria is relatively safe (everyone who is admitted is supposed to be screened, so as long as you're inside the fence, the drivers should be okay), once you're outside those gates, especially at night, things become dicey. 'Palestinians' know how to dress as Jews and to talk as little as possible so you'll believe they're Jews. Sometimes you don't even realize that the driver is a 'Palestinian' even if the car has Israeli license plates (I've gotten into taxis driven by Arabs myself without realizing it). That's how people get kidnapped. In Jerusalem, there are taxi companies that advertise that they only employ Jewish drivers.

Personally, I don't usually pick up people I don't know. Nothing makes a driver any more immune to being attacked by a passenger, God forbid, than a passenger is to being kidnapped by a driver. But then, I have more choice than a resident of Judea and Samaria who doesn't own a car.

The reality is that 47 years after the supposed liberation of Judea and Samaria, we have yet to take control. The roads in Judea and Samaria are mostly still narrow and inadequate. The bus service is worse. In response to popular outcry over the kidnapping, the Netanyahu government has allocated money for shuttle buses to yeshiva high schools and girls' high schools in Judea and Samaria... but that's treating the symptom rather than the problem.

It's long past time for the government to acknowledge the reality that peace isn't happening in our time, that there isn't going to be a 'Palestinian' state alongside Israel in our time, and that we'd be fools to start giving away territory with or without a 'Palestinian state.' It's long past time to fix the roads by bringing them into the 21st century, and to provide adequate bus service to all Jewish communities in Israel (including Judea and Samaria) regardless of politics.

It's also long past time to lower taxes on cars and gas by making our government accountable, and to stop letting it overtax us to pay for its inability to curb its spending except at the expense of the weakest groups in society... but that's a separate issue.

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