Hitchhiking in Gush Etzion
Hitchhiking in Gush Etzion Flash 90

In the wake of the kidnapping 10 days ago of three Israeli teens, who were apparently taken prisoner when they tried to hitchhike a ride in Gush Etzion, new security measures will be taken to ensure the safety of hitchhikers. The new measures include the installation of cameras at main pickup points in Judea and Samaria, and the dispatching of army patrols to keep an eye out for the safety of hitchhikers.

In addition, security officials have drawn up a plan to significantly improve the public transportation situation in Judea and Samaria, to ensure that young people who need to get to school or to their army base are not forced to to hitchhike.

Shimon Peretz, Deputy IDF Commander for the Hevron district, said that IDF troops and police would begin patrolling the roads, with the specific mission of watching out for the safety of those standing at bus stops and pickup points. Police will also advise those standing at the points on what to watch out for before getting into a vehicle. The patrols will begin in the coming days.

New lighting will be installed at many bus stops, in order to discourage kidnappers from seeking and grabbing victims, usually done under cover of darkness. New cameras will be installed at many stops. An IDF spokesperson said that, according to the army's experience, there were almost no instances of kidnappings or attempted kidnappings at bus stops and pickup points where cameras and sufficient lighting had been installed.

The IDF is also working with bus companies to increase the number and frequency of buses on key lines. Many bus lines in Judea and Samaria stop running at 9 or 10 PM, but under the new plan, buses will continue to run till past midnight. IDF officials that even outlying communities will have bus service to one destination or another at least once an hour, until at least midnight. In addition, special buses will be provided for students of yeshivas and pre-military academies.

“We in the IDF are involved in developing this plan because we are in charge of setting the level of security,” said an IDF spokesperson.

Last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) ordered his staff to allocate four million shekels (roughly $1.15 million) to finance transportation to yeshiva high schools and girls' high schools in Judea and Samaria. Shuttles will be available to schools every Sunday and every weekend, to allow the safe travel of students from home to school and back.

It should be noted that for political and financial reasons, buses in Judea and Samaria are infrequent, and hitchhiking home has become a way of life for residents across Judea and Samaria and is a widely accepted - and common - practice.

Car travel is too expensive for many families, due to both a 150% sales tax on new vehicles in Israel, and gas prices topping 7.66 shekel per liter ($6.50 per gallon). 

The decision follows the abduction of three students -  Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad; Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon; and Gilad Sha'ar, 16, from Talmon - by Hamas terrorists, on Thursday, June 12. The three were trying to travel home from the Gush Etzion region for Shabbat, and hitchhiking due to the lack of public transport available in the region. 

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