Top 5 Things NEVER to do in a Tremp

First of all, you may be asking, “What in heaven’s name is a tremp?”

For the uninitiated, in Israel a tremp (adapted from the European slang “tramp” but with an Israeli accent) is basically a ride for the carless or the cheap. Also known as hitchhiking in other parts of the world, in Israel this cultural mainstay is almost an informal carpool system. As I do have a car but I am often cheap, I have found myself to be both a tremper and a giver of tremps; often on the same day.

Tremping, as my daughters have taught me, is a fine art form. While standing at a ‘trempiada’ (place where trempers wait for potential rides) it is important to be standing at the part of the curb where the people going to your destination are most likely to stop. Apparently this knowledge is somewhat of a sixth sense for Israelis, but what those who immigrate as adults never seem to cultivate.

It is important to know sign language when tremping so that the driver need not stop and ask you where you are going; rather he can make meaningful gestures that clearly indicate where he is heading. These gestures include pointing downwards with his index finger, signifying that he is staying in the area. Or else he can point in one direction or another, indicating that he is going in that direction, but further away. Then, as he’s zooming by, if the tremper is planning on heading in the same direction, he can use the sign language of throwing his whole body in front of the car to be sure the driver stops to let him on. This is a dangerous practice I might add.

There are a number of signs used by drivers when they can’t/won’t pick up trempers. Hand held out, palm-down, waved from side to side indicates a full car. Rotating the index finger in a circle indicates that the driver is not actually going anywhere, just ‘around the block’.  I have not yet figured out the signs for ‘I’m not in the mood to pick you up’, ‘I’m in too much of a rush’, ‘I am talking privately in my car and don’t want you listening in’ or any of the other reasons that inspire guilt, yet not enough guilt to slow down and actually give someone a lift. To assuage my guilt, I will usually use a made-up hand motion so that they think that they simply did not understand what I was saying, but that I wasn’t just ignoring them…

But I digress. The other morning a friend and I were in a tremp (as trempers – it was a cheap day) and a fellow tremper got into the car and began to do something so revolting that it inspired me to write the Top 5 Things NEVER to do in a Tremp.And they are:

#5: Talk loudly on your phone
Common courtesy should indicate that as the recipient of a ride in someone’s car the tremper should be seen and not heard, speak only when spoken to, and be otherwise virtually non-existent. The occasional tremper who thinks it is perfectly fine to hold loud, boisterous conversations on the phone in my car will find himself persona non grata the next time I pass him at the trempiada…

#4: Step on the driver’s groceries
Why would someone do this? Are they totally oblivious? Or do they know I’m making scrambled eggs later and are trying to save me a step?

#3: Smell badly
Now this is a serious offense. If you can’t shower and wash your clothing regularly, then you cannot tremp. It is as simple as that. I once picked up a few guys who were tremping and one of them smelled so badly I didn’t think I would get the stench out of my car EVER. My son, who was four at the time, diplomatically announced, “Mommy, what’s that gross smell?”

#2: Throw up
When I felt the need to be sick in a tremp, I practically had the driver drop me off in the middle of the street. Isn’t this what common courtesy dictates? I was not so lucky when I was the driver. On the holiday of Purim I picked up a few trempers at the entrance to Neve Daniel where I live. One of the passengers was clearly intoxicated. (Of course this was only clear once he was in the car and I was on the road). Okay, I will spare you the details, but luckily he had a bag. Lesson learned: never pick up ANY trempers on Purim…

And the number one thing that you should never, ever do in a tremp is:
#1: Clip your fingernails
That’s right, you heard me correctly. It was a nail-clipping tremper who inspired this whole article. My friend and I were sitting in the back seat in a tremp when another guy jumped in. We were minding our own business when out of the corner of my eye I saw that he was carefully doing something with his hands. I did a double-take and was STUNNED that he had actually pulled out a nail clipper and was going at it, nail by nail, without catching the clippings!! My friend and I looked at each other, flabbergasted, and not a little bit sick to our stomachs. Of course what makes this the number one tremping offense is the high likelihood of causing the number two offense in others, which will MOST DEFINITELY generate offense number three.

Happy tremping!

© 2009, Laura Ben-David

About the Author

Laura Ben-David is the author of numerous articles and the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has done public speaking about Israel and Aliyah all over the United States and Israel. Contact her at or follow her tweets at