Despite terror abduction alerts, near-attempts and bitter “successes” by Palestinian kidnappers, Israeli army soldiers still hitchhike and risk their lives, according to a report on Israel’s Ch. 2 News.
IDF regulations allow troops in uniform to travel in military vehicles and on public transportation only, and forbid hitchhiking – or “tremping,” as it is known in colloquial Hebrew – in private vehicles.
But hitchhiking for soldiers is a societal norm and extremely common in Israel.
To emphasize the threat troops are facing and set an example, in December, Military Police officers, posing in one case as a medic and postal service employee, staged a “kidnapping” of an unassuming soldier.
The sting mission began at the military police base at the army’s Central Command, next to a Jewish neighborhood in northern Jerusalem, an area that is also heavily populated by Palestinian villages.
During the ride, the vehicle also passed by the site of the abduction in June of three teenage Israelis who were executed by their Hamas captors shortly after they entered their vehicle.
The soldier is seen entering the vehicle, and sitting between two presumed civilians – who are in fact military policemen.
When he was engaged in casual conversation, the soldier readily divulged classified information, such as where he served, how many soldiers were stationed on his base, and similar information, which would have served as intelligence gold to terrorists.
After the brief chat, the front seat “passenger” is then seen flipping open his IDF ID, and the driver stops the vehicle.
“You’re under arrest by the military police – why’d you take the ride?” he asks the soldier as the two reveal their identities.
In recent months, no less than 10 soldiers were “abducted” in such operations, in what the IDF considers one of the most severe disciplinary offenses, according to the military police.
“The threat of taking rides is very large,” according to Lt.-Col. Barak Danin, the central district’s military police chief.
“We deal with enforcement on a daily basis,” he said, but added that, “there’s been a big drop over the same period since I was a soldier; there is more awareness.”
Recent IDF statistics seem to back him up.
In 2011, 376 citations were issued for the offense, 218 in 2012, 193 in 2013 and in 2014, so far: 142 – a 27 percent decrease from last year. The army cited warnings, public advertisements, and deterrence as being behind the drop in statistics.