The Rumors of War
It is axiomatic that the news media is the last to know in Israel. From the time we arrived here, we have been told "the taxi drivers know." This could simply be urban legend, as I would very much like to believe, but recently I have been paying more attention as the taxi driver contingent in Jerusalem somehow gets wind of things ranging from sports to diplomacy to gossip and has oftentimes proved correct.
The news media is full of dire reports of Syrian units moving up to the Golan; of an Arab daily in London claiming Hezbollah's "surprise" for Israel is chemical and biological weapons; Nasrallah's boast that he is more and better armed than last summer; the upsurge in diplomatic Double-Talk about how no one wants war but everyone will respond to Other's "aggression," and so forth....
[Note: in Arabic, hit and run raids across Israel's borders are "resistance" but Israeli military responses to such raids are "Israeli aggression" -- you need to get the vocabulary down to understand the rhetoric.]
We have found out through friends that reserve duty obligations have been high all summer, and lengthier than in past years. War? Or lessons from Lebanon last year?
Today, out of the blue, Yossi turned to us and announced, "Thank G-d you sold your house -- there's going to be war in September."
Understand that we've asked him before about Syria, Hezbollah and the rest of the restive neighbors, and he has been noncommital to a fault. Today's announcement was a surprise. While not the Oracle of Delphi, in view of his past equivocation on this very subject, we were moved to ask "Why?"
It seems that the taxi drivers not only read the same papers we read, and have the same relatives and friends doing extended miluim (reserve duty) all summer, but they also transport people who have knowledge that doesn't make it into the paper -- and no, these passengers aren't droppping classified information, but when (for example) someone mentions his son with XX Corps is home on leave from the Golan, and the driver knows that XX Corps is a special unit that only becomes operational on the border when war is pending, the drivers put 2 + 2 together and come up with something that looks like 4.
Do this with 3,000+ taxi drivers in Jerusalem, all gathering incremental bits and pieces of information, and you have a rumor mill that seems to churn out distressinly accurate information quite a bit of the time.
For once, I hope and pray that the taxi drivers are wrong.