Friday, January 30, 2015

One Doctor's Analysis of the Meningitis Outbreak in Jerusalem in 1910-1911 מחלת השבתא, או, דלקת קרום המח

In 1911 in Jerusalem, Dr A. Masie printed an interesting pamphlet regarding the Meningitis Outbreak in Jerusalem at the time, it's causes, symptoms, cures and prevention etc. His description of the causes of the disease shed light on to the way of life and daily life in the old Yishuv.
You can read it all below, but here is a sample:
Pages 27-34 is a discussion by the author as to why Meningitis was widespread specifically in the Ashkenazi community of Jerusalem. The author lists several specific reasons for this, here are the first 4 he enumerates.
1. The setup of their houses where all doors open up to the same small shared space, where all the children and women congregate, and despite the outbreak, they have not stopped this practice.
2. The wet pail that is used in the communal well is left in the house and contaminated water is thus spread throughout the house.
3. The practice of going to the synagogue despite having a sick patient at home, thus spreading the disease. He adds that the Ashkenazis don't often wash their Tallit, as opposed to the Sephardic Jews which wash it often. The Ashkenazi Yerushalmi Shabbat clothing is also made of material which is not easily washed, thus spreading the disease.
4. The biggest horror he writes is the situation of the Ashkenazi Mikvaot, in the men's mikvaot they change the water only once in 2 months and in the women's Mikva only 3 times a year! Another bad habit is that several women often bath together as they can not afford to pay for separate uses....

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