People who love their neighbors, even hitchhiking travelers

Jordan Valley, Israel/Palestine

It’s not everyday that you stand on the side of a highway, a car pulls over, you get in, and moments later the driver says you’re an answer to prayer.

Up until this car stopped, the day had been full of disappointments. I had left Jerusalem that morning and gone to Jericho to meet a friend, but that meeting didn’t materialize. I then walked for an hour and a half with my full packs from the center of Jericho toward the Jordanian border, only to reach the Israeli checkpoint on the edge of town and hear that I couldn’t traverse the next 400 meters to Highway 90 on foot, that I would need to walk about three hours by another route to reach this spot only five minutes in front of me. Finally, at the border crossing, I was told I had arrived five minutes too late; it was closed until tomorrow morning.

And so at 2:30pm I stood on the side of the highway, hoping to hitch a ride 90 minutes to the north to another border crossing that was still open. I had been standing only two minutes when the car stopped.

The driver was a 20-year-old woman named Tehila, and in the passenger seat was her friend Richi, a young man studying at a yeshiva. They were religious Jews on their way from Jerusalem to a kibbutz in the northern Jordan Valley to celebrate Shabbat. Shortly before seeing me, Richi shared with Tehila the story of a rabbi who, in tears, told God he really wanted to follow his commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” and then was presented with an opportunity to do just that.  After the story, Tehila and Richi prayed for the same opportunity. Moments later they saw this guy standing on the edge of the desert highway and came to a stop.

I had planned to go to Jordan this day; instead I accepted Tehila and Richi’s invitation to join them for the Shabbat meal at the kibbutz. I ended up spending the next 36 hours here, embraced by people who would take in a wandering stranger, feed and house him, listen to him and teach him. “We are happy for your accident,” one man said at the kibbutz, referring to my having arrived too late at the border crossing which precipitated the events that led to me eating in his home.

The average reader of this blog, like this writer, is not a religious Jew. But all of us can appreciate the transformative power of love, just as we can actively show such love to others in our own journeys. Thank you, Tehila and Richi, for wanting to love God and your neighbor both. You modeled part of what it means to travel well.

Posted by | Comments (5)  | November 23, 2010
Category: Asia, Ethical Travel, Hospitality, Images from the road, Notes from the collective travel mind

5 Responses to “People who love their neighbors, even hitchhiking travelers”

  1. Ivy Says:

    This is so absolutely wonderful. I’m probably the biggest fan in the world of travel luck and the kindness of strangers. Beautifully written, too.

  2. wandering educators Says:

    joel – yet again, your life – and stories – continue to amaze me. the kindness of strangers, indeed.

  3. Matt | YearAroundTheWorld Says:

    Another great example of the kindness of others.

  4. Don Says:

    Thanks for sharing this great travel story Joel.