Word of the Day / Tremp טְרֶמְפּ

In the U.S. the big fear of hitchhiking is stranger danger, while in Israel it's bullets, stones – or someone trying to piggyback on your success.

Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova
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Shoshana Kordova
Shoshana Kordova

The word tremp, meaning a ride in someone else's car – whether that of a friend, acquaintance or stranger – is automatically identifiable as a word of non-Hebrew derivation, since it ends with a hard "p" sound instead of a soft "f" sound, which in Hebrew are both signified by the same letter. It comes from the German word trampen, which means both "hitchhiking" and "backpacking," and is used in Hebrew phrases like litfos tremp, "to catch a ride," and trempistim, or "hitchhikers."

One of the best places to catch a tremp is at a trempiada, which is basically a popular hitchhiking spot, a place in a prime location -- say, a popular intersection where a lot of cars pass by -- where people stand around in the hope of catching a ride.

While the big fear of hitchhiking in the United States is stranger danger – what isolated spot might that truck driver take you as he crosses the state line? – I would venture to say that, at least in certain parts of the West Bank and during certain periods, hitchhikers are more concerned with standing around exposed in a spot where stones or bullets might come flying or possibly being kidnapped by Palestinian militants. That's why army regulations bar soldiers in uniform from hitching rides (which isn't to say they don't do it). Every once in a while, security officials get word of plans to abduct Israelis and issue warnings against catching trempim (to use the plural).

On the other hand, there's quite a lively hitchhiking culture precisely around settlements, since they may be relatively isolated from the closest city (or even the next settlement), with spotty bus service. But while Jewish residents of the West Bank generally take care not to hitch a ride with passing Arab strangers, they tend to be quite trusting of Jewish drivers headed in their direction, and the drivers are typically more willing to stop for hitchhikers in those areas than in more urban regions of the country. On kibbutzim, too, hitching rides is common practice, an easy way to reach civilization (or at least a mall).

As in English, one can also metaphorically litfos tremp al – in other words, "hitch a ride on" or "ride the coattails of" somebody or something else. Much as the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to "hitch a ride" on basketball center Anderson Varejao's energy for a win, according to an October article in The Plain Dealer, Likud's Limor Livnat is accusing Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett of "hitching a ride" on the outgoing government's cultural achievements. I would venture to say the move won't cause him much harm, as long as he doesn't take a sudden detour into the next poorly lit rest stop.

Want to hitch a ride? Stick your thumb out and wait for a tremp.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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