I am a religious Jew, and I have had several unfortunate experiences with street harassment. This is the first one.
After high school, I spent a year in Israel, on a program that combined Israeli National Service with Jewish seminary learning. In Israel, it is perfectly normal for young people to hitchhike, especially from a main road to an out-of-the-way town. The town where I lived was one such place, and I got fairly used to hitchhiking. One day I was coming home from a shopping trip, loaded with bags. An older man stopped for me, and since the back of his car was full of junk, I sat in the front. Big mistake. The ride to my part of town was only a few minutes, but he spent it trying to casually rest his arm around my back, while I tried to shrug it away. He kept telling me how there were great deals on clothes, including bras and underwear – especially fixating on the bras – in the market in Lod. I forget if it had come up in conversation or if it was because of my accented Hebrew, but he knew that I was American, and gave me his number, telling me to call him if I ever wanted to see the country and we could go to Tzfat or something – don’t worry, he wouldn’t hurt me! (Yeah, right.)
I went inside feeling creeped out and dirty. I never told anyone on my program what happened because I felt like it was my fault for sitting in the front seat – you’re not supposed to do that if you can avoid it, and any Israeli who hitchhikes regularly knows it; I thought my friends would laugh at me. It’s only in the past year that I’ve told anyone besides my psychologist and my boyfriend about this incident, and to this day I can’t stand being hugged from behind.
Location: Tzafaria, Israel