Plagues and the Land of Israel: From Ottoman Times to Our Times – with Yaron Ayalon, June 23, 2020

– Shalom and welcome to the second of our four part Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Summer Seminar and Webinar Series This one entitled “Plagues in the Land of Israel “from Ottoman times to our time.” My name is Jonathan Sarna I’m director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies here at Brandeis University And with me is Professor Yaron Ayalon, who is Director of the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program, and also Associate Professor of Jewish and Middle Eastern Studies at the College of Charleston Yaron is a social historian of Sephardic Jews, Israel, the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire And he wrote a book, that is surprisingly timely, more I suspect than he could have realized, it’s there on the screen entitled “Natural Disasters in the Ottoman Empire Like Famine and Other Misfortunes.” He’s written many articles and he is just finishing up a much awaited volume entitled, “Ottoman Jew, A New Social History.” Let me welcome all who are joining us, please send questions using the chat feature and at the end of our discussion, we hope to have about 15 minutes, to really try and grapple with those questions, the chat feature is being monitored So let me begin by making the obvious point, plagues didn’t begin in 2020, in fact, they were in the past much more common as a phenomenon in people’s lives How did Jews and others in Ottoman Palestine deal with plagues and other natural disasters much earlier before the middle of the 19th century, whereas you show how things change – Thank you and thank you all for having me here This is really a wonderful opportunity and I’m happy to try to answer those and perhaps some other questions I think that there wasn’t really a major difference if we look at the Ottoman period, especially before the mid 19th century between how these things were perceived in Palestine and other parts of the Ottoman Empire, at least no clear distinctions that I can make here And what we can’t say from cases that we’ve seen in Palestine and adjacent areas like Syria and Egypt is that there was really, and that wouldn’t surprise us of course, no major understanding, no real understanding of the cause of epidemics I mean the scientific community didn’t really understand them either at this point There were beliefs, there were superstitions, many of them we can’t really track, but we know that they existed because here and there we do have references for them like we do know for instance, that there was a pretty common belief among Muslims in certain cities that the solar eclipse was something that is about to project a major earthquake, or that plague always started with the Jews In other words, if they’re rumors about plague, you first go to the Jewish quarter to check if there are any Jews there sick with the place, because if they’re not well then that’s good This was a rumor actually believed by Europeans, probably for other reasons, maybe antisemitic reasons I’m not sure but anyways, we have European reports that they would, anytime there was a rumor, let’s say, so and so Jew did not show up for services at the synagogue and he sick, immediately Oh, does he have the plague? We have to go and check because that’s gonna be a bad sign Okay, there were some people who were trying to examine this like European physicians who were active in the Ottoman Empire So not so much in Palestine, but one very well known case is the case of the two half-brothers Alexander

and Patrick Russell, they really, they were a good case because they operated in Syria, but they did write about the region more broadly They were really at the forefront of knowledge, whatever knowledge was, this was mid 18th century And the common belief which persists into really about a century later, is that most of these epidemics are transmitted human to human through either miasma, which is bad air, or just contact between people That was the common belief, in Europe too And the interesting thing is that some of those physicians, they conducted experiments and the ones that Patrick Russell conducted in the second half of the 18th century led him to believe that we don’t really have a good explanation because the fact is that we see people being quarantined and yet they still get the plague somehow, but he didn’t really know how to explain it And that’s really as far as you can take the explanations When it comes to, let’s say ordinary people, so if you didn’t have that special knowledge as a physician or you didn’t have access to a physician, which was most people, they didn’t really take too much action In fact, epidemics were part of the regular way of life, the cycle of nature They came, some people died, others survived, and then you move on until the next cycle And if you were particularly unfortunate, then there would be a few of these one after another, and then that’s too bad for you, but that’s just how nature work We have even evidence that family planning was based on projected epidemic cycles That is, well, we need to create more kids basically ’cause some of them are probably going to die There are actual sources for that So really what determined whether people would take action or not and we have many cases in Ottoman Palestine for this, but again also adjacent areas One was a whole array of psychological mechanisms that we also see from today So people are attached to others, if you were alone in a city, let’s say you were a merchant and you came to Jerusalem, your family is in Aleppo or Damascus and you’re now in Jerusalem You don’t really know anyone in the city, if there are rumors about an epidemic, you’re just gonna go back home, you’re gonna leave the city right away That’s the action you’re going to take But if you have family there or you’re tied to a particular profession, and you can’t leave, then you’re not going to leave And so it was a combination of psychology and essentially money and the economic question So actually I have to admit that even though I suggested that you would ask me this question, it’s actually not a good question to ask Because the question really shouldn’t be how Jews reacted to epidemics, because people reacted based on other features and not based on their religious affiliation Now, of course we have plenty of sources that claim otherwise, mostly European observers who immediately said, “Well, Muslims didn’t do anything and Christians and Jews immediately when there’s plague they left the city.” That’s what they did This is in the absence of any sort of central policy coming down from the state These were our local responses So people just left, even when it was an issue of let’s say famine or earthquake or other disasters, Oh, Muslims that’s just didn’t care about anything They were dying like flies, Jews and Christians left, but that’s just what the European sources say We have to remember that the European person who lived for two months in a place had no credible ways to gauge who was Muslim and who was Jewish They all looked the same, some people leave, some people don’t, they all dressed similarly, Jews and Christians and Muslims were all really integrated into the same society So these are not very credible, this is not very credible evidence, and we have plenty of other evidence that suggests that, certainly some Jews left the city when it happened But that’s because they could afford to do that – So okay as you mentioned by the way, bad air, the very name mah-LAH-ree-yah comes from that openly mistaken notion We know that malaria was mosquito-borne, but they thought it’s the bad air and all over the world, you moved cemeteries far from cities really in order to make sure that bad air wouldn’t cause a plague

and fascinating how long that lasted, but I wanted to move in a different direction I think today there’s a lot of discussion What should be the involvement of the state and the truth is that these questions go far back So give me a sense of what was the involvement of the state in containing the spread of plagues, alleviating suffering, preventing maybe the next plague, what’s the state’s role? – So when we go back to the Ottoman Empire, there was a very minimal role of the state when it came to epidemics And there is no difference that I’ve seen in the sources, when it comes to what kind of epidemic it was Of course the people did notice, even though they didn’t know about diseases, that there are different symptoms, but the response in the end was more or less the same On the state level, we don’t see much happening before the 19th century There were sporadic attempts to quarantine, mostly ships at ports, before then, but really not much The first major response that we see from the Ottomans is after 1831, after cholera starts spreading in the Ottoman Empire And that’s when they wake up and they say, “Okay, we need to quarantine.” At this point the Europeans are telling them, no quarantine doesn’t actually work for cholera We know that we don’t really know what works, but we know that quarantine doesn’t And we also don’t really think it works for plagues, so we just don’t really think that it’s gonna work, but the Ottomans were convinced that, that’s what they needed to do after the European told them for centuries that that’s what they had to do Now, the Ottomans were getting on board with this when it was finally not necessary to do it And there was an ongoing debate, there was a series of what was called the International Sanitary Conference There were 10 of them from 1851 to 1894, convening each time in a different European city The Ottomans come in, the European try to convince them enough with this quarantine already Except of course you have to quarantine all of those Muslim pilgrims in Mecca and Medina because we don’t want them in Europe So quarantine these guys, but don’t use quarantine in the Mediterranean where it bothers us And the Ottomans were like, yeah, we don’t really like those double standards So we are actually going to do what we want What eventually changed state policy was another major outbreak in 1894, in Istanbul It hits close home, it close to home, in the Capital and that’s when Ottoman authorities realized, you know, we need to do something more and the knowledge is out there They bring in French advisors who run actually bacteriology labs in Istanbul itself, and start taking what we would call more sort of appropriate measures by the standards that we know today So this really only happens in the very last decade But again the main problem was, first of all, knowing what to do, right? So plague bacteria was first discovered in 1894, with cholera, the connection with contaminated water was known since John Snow’s experiments in London in 1854 And that’s about it, the bottom line is that there were efforts from governments and this continues into the early 20th century But these efforts were really dependent on again, economic ability, sanitation There were problems that would take a very long time to fix And also an issue of what public health means I think that in the early 20th century, we start seeing the adoption of what would seem to be more like what we would call public health policies today, including educating the public, sending experts to speak to people and say, you know, here are the things you need to do If it’s cholera, you need to boil your water, which was a lot more tedious back then than it is now, right It took a long time to boil water So yeah, I think the state starts being involved in those efforts only really in the early 20th century and then the British continued them and then in the case of Israel, the state of Israel continues that as well – So like that’s exactly what I wanted to move to Suddenly you had Israeli’s movement, you had growing Jewish immigration to Palestine, and they begin to see these plagues, there’s much written especially on malaria, kah-DAH-khaht, which plays a big role in the mind of the early settlers

So how do they experience and deal with these epidemic outbreaks? – Yeah, so when we start seeing those Jewish immigrants coming into Palestine, first of all, you’re right that malaria was the main issue they had to deal with Actually cholera, which was the main issue for most European countries, didn’t hit the Palestine that often I’m not sure we know the reason why But anyways, at least I don’t know it, but what I do know is that there was one major outbreak in 1865 That’s still before the big waves of immigration And then a smaller one in 1875 and the first real experiment that most Zionist settlers had with color and Palestine was in 1902 And then again, 1911 to 13, but you’re right Malaria was there and they had to deal with that too And then the question is, so first of all, is there a coordinated countrywide response? There really isn’t one, and I haven’t found one under the British either What we do have are local responses based on towns and villages when it was still under the Ottomans, we get the Ottomans again, first decade of the 20th century, sending physicians to assist a local physician that might’ve been in a certain town We have examples, uh, 1902 Gaza and Tiberius where the two main cities that were affected, in terms of number of dead and number of sick, more than any other place But if you look really at the data and the places where these epidemics were affecting people, it again comes down to economics and sanitation and awareness and knowing what to do If the Jewish settlers at first didn’t know what to do with malaria But once they figured out the connection between water that’s sitting there in a pond for seven days and the spread of malaria, once they figured out those connections, you see, the connection is there, anywhere that real measures were taken, to prevent the spread of diseases you see good results and where those were not taken, you don’t see very good results Then there’s the issue of who do you believe, right? We still have that problem today I think, in terms of physicians and all that We had European physicians in Palestine, we had Jews, we had Ottomans and then British and they really received mixed treatment In some communities, there were even cases of what today we would call fake news, spread rumors, spread that doctors were purposely infecting people, mostly with cholera, these were the rumors, and that, you know, those doctors would come in and they would deliver public speeches They would urge people to take precautions And sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t work I think the lesson for us today is that then as it is now, these physicians in their urging the public to take action, they would add a level of discomfort So then as it would be now, many people didn’t follow through or even didn’t believe the message that they heard or didn’t believe the science and the science was fairly new back then And most people didn’t learn it at school, and most people were not schooled So at least they had an excuse, I’m not really sure what the excuse for people not believing in the science today is, but I guess that’s a difference question – Yeah, they, I mean, it’s actually interesting that the discovery that malaria is not caused by bad air, but it’s rather mosquito-borne Plus, as I understand it approximately at the same time, as it’s realized that yellow fever in the United States, is similarly caused by the mosquito We usually credit Walter Reed for whom there’s a famous hospital name, with confirming that it was mosquito-borne and to bring it close to home for us, Louis Brandeis is deeply interested in mosquito control, as a way of solving problems of malaria in the land of Israel I don’t know if you wanna go and talk about

the Hula Swamp and all that happens there But it’s quite interesting that technocrats in both countries really, I mean, the United States and in Israel and the land of Israel become people who think, okay, we ought to be able to prevent these kinds of plagues, it’s not something sent by God If it’s mosquito-borne, we should be able to deal with it If it’s bacterial-borne, we ought to be able to deal with it, viral, which is what corona is, is somewhat different matter But there’s suddenly are all these plans to kind of transform nature as it had existed for so many millennia and trying to break this cycle of plagues So I don’t know if you wanna talk about that, but it is kind of interesting how that develops and even how some of the Americans get involved in that thinking – Yeah, sure, I mean I’m, I’m happy to address that as much as I can, as you know, I’m not an expert on the American side of things, even though I have looked at some American cases just for comparative purposes What you mentioned about Hula, I think that’s the end of the process This is already a state that’s in place that has all the medical knowledge and decides we are going to act upon the medical knowledge Of course they have the medical knowledge, what they didn’t have, were other things that we know today, like the environmental effects of drying up the swamp and all that, okay, but for the knowledge that they had at the time, they did, I guess, what we would expect governments to do today Which is this is a public health concern, here is the knowledge that we have, if we do this, we can get better results So yeah, they didn’t really get to grow too many crops on the land that they dried out and there were other environmental effects, okay But that came later, I think this is the end of the process The early process is, or the beginning of it was the differentiation between the groups of Jews who were in Palestine that’s before the state and really we see a big difference in response between what we call the old issue and the new issue So the old people, not old people like the old issue I meant to say, who were there for, you could say non-Zionist reasons, mostly who are descendants of those who were in Palestine for ages, continued to work in the old methods, even in the early 20th century, like collecting donations, sending letters to communities outside of Palestine for help, all the things that we’ve seen for centuries, they continue to do that Whereas people of the new issue, so if you take settlements like the new settlements like (speaks in foreign language) those new agricultural settlements People in those places, you see that they trust the science a lot more They trust the doctors a lot more This is even before we have the state policies, they imposed on their own people, policies that later the state would make more widespread and that meant better sanitation, better conditions And the fact is that in those new settlements, you see a lot more epidemics, you see a lot less, I’m sorry, a lot less cholera And you see essentially, malaria which is going down and down To me I have to say though, I don’t see malaria as an epidemic and I know that’s just my interpretation The reason is that, unlike cholera or plague, when it starts and then it spread exponentially, malaria was a product of, as we said, mosquito bites and it was, to me the way I see it, sort of an ongoing nuisance for people who were situated in certain places Of course they might have seen it as an epidemic from their perspective But anyways, I think that that’s part of how we have to look at it So policy starts at the local level, then when the British come in, when the British mandate happens, again, we don’t really see very many central policies and the responses were left to initiatives of local communities, which again, meant that the economic situation of a place, how crowded it was, how sanitary it was, dictated responses and outcomes And so, we have that in a lot of the older history books

Those claims that the Arabs in Palestine suffered from epidemics a lot more than the Jews, hinting that it was because the Arabs were Arabs and the Jews were Europeans, but the real reason, the data is true, but the real reason for it is that it’s all of those factors that I mentioned Again economics, how crowded it is and there’s also a question of culture And I know we’re about to discuss this, the issue of different sex and how they suffered from epidemic, so I can address that in a minute – It’s okay, so there, I just observed that they’re fascinating parallels of course, between what happens in the Middle East and what we know about plagues in lots of places, including the United States, where the reason most Americans today have never experienced the plague, whereas anyone in the 19th century, know every few years there’d be something, is precisely because we learned so much about a bacterial and mosquito-driven illnesses And the last time we had a big new virus was in fact at the 1918 flu So most people know nothing really about it since I’m located in Boston, I’ll just mention to people one of the reasons that you don’t have in Boston, much in the way of mosquito-driven plague, you don’t even have yellow fever, how simply because it would get cold early and all the mosquitoes would die, and you really can see the impact of climate Whereas New Orleans, Memphis, they’re getting mosquito-borne yellow fever year after year until they learn about sanitation And sanitation becomes, of course, as we’ve talked about sanitation becomes a much bigger theme and suddenly it’s realized that if you have better sanitation, you will prevent plague, for us that is obvious It’s not clear to me that people related sanitation of plagues in quite the same way as in the 18th century I don’t know what to think and then we’ll move on to different groups, yeah – I think just a quick comment on that I think that, first of all, there was one issue which is the presence of a centralized state That’s a big deal So for instance, in the 1793 yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia, when the state was still fairly young and there were no practices yet developed for dealing with these issues, you see a very traditional form of response, which is all the rich people leave the city, including the entire leadership of the country, which was at the time still in Philadelphia, leaves the city and whatever happens to other people that’s their problem This is sort of the old school kind of response By 1918, of course you have a state that’s been around for a while and can develop a centralized or at least if not federal, then on the state level kind of responses, which you don’t really have in late Ottoman or mandatory Palestine And I think when it comes to sanitation, the assumption without the ability to prove it in terms of science, the assumption that there is connection between sanitation and public health and disease, it goes back actually a few centuries We have the early decrees from, I think the second decade of the 16th century in France, the crease that were very path breaking for their time or groundbreaking for their time because they really injected the state into the private homes of individuals by telling them, “You have to install cesspools in effect toilets, what we would call toilets now And they say it in the decree, because we are concerned that, before toilets, what people used to do is use all sorts of receptacles and then they would throw it out the window And of course, all the streets would have a horrible smell That’s just how it was and their concern is that that’s not good for public health And they mentioned this and you see a series of decrees,

but they always come from centralized authorities in Europe, in the 16th and 17th century, issuing decrees requiring people to move farm animals outside of cities, to install toilets in their own homes and all sorts of other things that give the appearance of more cleanness So I think you can have all the understanding you want of the connection between sanitation and cleanliness But if you don’t have organized central authority that can actually run those efforts and also has, if you don’t have some sort of an enforcement agency, then it’s very hard to get that done – Right, it’s so fascinating, you talked about central authority because that’s of course a big issue today in the United States and elsewhere And when we compare the United States and Israel, you see that central authority has played a huge role in Israel and amazingly people, some people more, some less, but people listened as if they were looking to that central authority And you’re suggesting, I think that, that has a long history to it that when plagues hit, you expect central authority to really take charge and tell you what to do I wonder if you can link past and present in that way and help us understand how the response in the state of Israel really drew from those past precedents – I have been thinking about this so hard, and I am not sure that I can draw those parallels, in part because public health policy in modern Israel is not my expertise, but really when I think about this, what we see today is a product of several things Some of it is British public health policies that were introduced in the 1920s and 30s We know that the state of Israel inherited a lot of laws and practices from the British and still use as many of them These were for sure the guiding principles for the early years of the Israeli state, when it came to a public health policies But the other reason we can’t draw direct parallels there, is that as we know in Israel, there’s this desire to not necessarily follow precedent, but be inventive or innovative about what the state does So for years there was this public health policy that involved education We saw it, I mean, we have ads for this from the 1950s on over to wash hands and you know, to be clean And I remember this growing up there as a kid in the 1980s when we still had one TV network with no commercials, but there were these government sponsored clips, in between shows talking about washing hands, staying in shape, eating fruits and vegetables and dairy products, but I don’t think that’s related And this was just part of all of us growing up You know, you get these messages injected into your You hear them at the schools and the schools play a major part in this public health awareness And so when you get now to finally, you have a major epidemic outbreak, which Israel really never really had Then, you know, first of all, people have, I think at least in some groups there was more awareness Again, we’ll talk about the groups, not everywhere, but in some groups there’s more awareness And then, there’s also the issue again of a centralized state that in recent years, in fact, has been becoming more centralized in many respects And enforcement, I mean, you say Israelis complied, the police gave fines You couldn’t go like Passover night when no one could go anywhere If you left your house, the police would arrest you and you would be fined And people knew that this was happening If you violated quarantine, you could get a much higher fine than just walking in the street Let’s say if you were put in quarantine So they used a lot of methods that, in many ways they should, maybe they did a little bit in Israel, perhaps not enough, generate debates about personal freedoms and the involvement of government in our own private lives and all that But the fact is that those things worked until about two weeks ago And now we see another rise in cases and time will tell what’s gonna happen with that But there’s no doubt, I mean, one of the things that,

they did is look at what didn’t work in Italy and try to do the opposite in Israel And we know that from the early months, but now what’s gonna happen, I don’t know We’ll wait and see – So you’ve alluded a few times and I think everybody knows the different groups in Israel And earlier, apparently it was true in Palestine, responded in different ways, had their own traditions, cooperated or didn’t cooperate to stem epidemic A lot of the press is only focused on the on the Haredi, on the fervently Orthodox views, but I wonder if you can talk about a different group and some of the traditions that they bring to this and how those traditions have shaped, contemporary actions – Yeah, I mean, I think we have to start with the issue of culture, and this is not always easy to discuss these days, because once you venture into culture, you risk generalizing entire populations and saying, well, all people in group X are so and so But the fact is that there are cultural issues, we know it from Italy where the practice of especially, men to live with their parents still a longer time, meant that more older people were affected We know that things like having larger families, again in general, not everyone does, but communities that have families with more children, where people live in large group, like the extended family all lives together We see this in some Haredi family and in some Arab villages and towns, in Israel too In a much more densely populated area, if there is a practice of praying together, in, you know, the smaller the space and the more condensed people are, obviously that affects the situation as well And there are others, celebration rights and so on and also today if we talk about today, there’s the issue of all of this, everything I said, now goes back, of course, but today you have also the issue of access to information There are certain groups that have less access to information if you’re in a Haredi community and the news spreads out on a Saturday, obviously you’re not exposed to that That’s not just, you know, if I redeem anyone who’s observant, but beyond that, many people in the ultra-Orthodox community and don’t have access to the internet, or there’s an issue of believing, what the authorities say If you have a lower level of trust in what the authorities tell you, if you’re a local leader, if you trust your local leader more than the authorities and the local leader tells you, “Look, you have to keep “praying together, you just ignore it, there’s no epidemic.” And we’ve seen a few rabbis in the early stages, saying that the ultra-Orthodox rabbis that is, and you don’t really trust the system that tells you otherwise, then you’re not gonna follow through those recommendations So I think really, we need to look at a combination of factors here There’s not, there’s never just one issue It’s a combination of factors that leads to those differences To me, the state has to be involved to some degree in limiting those differences In other words, if there are objective reasons that expose a certain community to more risk, then you can’t just say, “Oh, well, these people have always “been like that “So they’re just gonna die more.” I mean, that’s not a very responsible public health policy But again, these are modern issues throughout history, those cultural attributes along with again, economic situation is really what dictated the outcome of many communities – Yeah, I mean, of course it is worth remembering, notwithstanding what’s going on now in Israel, total number of deaths last time I looked was somewhere around 320 – Yeah, it’s fairly low – Compare that to New York, 9 million, 9 million It’s a hundred times more deaths, a hundred times more in New York than in Israel, and I think that once Corona is done, we will be looking very carefully at countries with the death rate was much lower and higher I don’t know, I mean, there are various theories Israel, for example, has a younger population, than New York does by far and since more elderly people die,

to what extent is that a factor? But I wonder, and then we’re gonna turn to questions, but I don’t know if there are other lessons from the past that you think can help us understand what’s going on today – I think, I mean, there’re lots of lessons from the past that can help us understand what’s going on today I think to me, at least the issue of trusting the authorities and why would you not trust the authorities goes back pretty pretty long, pretty far back And, we see this time and again, that action is dependent on information Of course the means to conveyed information changed, and on how much you would trust that information We have that in the Ottoman period, we have it in the early years of the United States I would assume — – Of course today everybody in the United States trusts the central authority 100% but I won’t I won’t go there – Yeah, sure (laughs) And we still have it now in certain groups And part of it is of course, political, it depends on who is governing and whether you like the politics And part of it is, I guess there are other social and emotional reasons that I think that would take probably another hour or so just to have that discussion of why people don’t trust and have not trusted the authorities over the years and then failed to act as a result – Great, I see that the Associate Director, Shayna Weiss has joined us, and she is armed with many good questions that have come in over the past 45 minutes or so So Shayna why don’t you pose them? – Hi, thank you so much everyone for joining, I really appreciate it Thank you Yaron, thank you, Jonathan We have a lot of really great questions, continue to send them in One of the questions I wanted to ask is to what extent, were Ottoman let’s say scientists and government officials aware of, or in dialogue with scientific developments going on in Europe, there is Snow, Pasterur Louis et cetera, right? How were these spread? What is the networks of knowledge going on with science and plagues at this time? – So I try to figure that out when I was writing my book and the best answer I could come up with is that we don’t really have much before the 1880s So we know that throughout the 19th century, especially since the big major reforms of the Ottoman Empire, the Tanzimat started in 1839 We have a growing number of Ottoman students who are going to Europe to study And some of them inevitably end up in the area of science But we don’t really see, at least I have not been able to find indications for actual communication between Ottoman students or Ottoman officials, whoever they may be and European scientists before the really second half of the 1880s And it’s really only confirmed, in the 1893 for cholera epidemic in Istanbul where we do have, um, a French physician who personally worked in some of the leading labs in Europe, including with Louis Pasteur who comes in and advises And there, you really have a big sort of not the only conversation, but the Ottoman government actually decides to take this on as a major issue and learn whatever they can learn But I have not seen, and perhaps there is evidence for it ’cause there was engagement, not on the scientific level They went since 1851 to the sanitary conferences, they had those discussions, but they were mostly about policy and politics and not so much about science What I did not do yet and would be interested in doing one day is actually looking at the protocols of those sanitary conferences ‘Cause maybe there were physicians who were actually speaking in them, which would mean that Ottoman officials were exposed to the knowledge, but even if that’s true, they never acted on it until the late 1880s – Right, especially if you think of the Ottoman elites training abroad, et cetera So we just got another question that I have also thought about and that’s that the first faculty position, right For medicine at Hebrew University when it was established

it’s a faculty of tropical medicine, right And that’s a term that I think sounds weird or at least odd to a lot of our modern American ears So do you know anything about that? What are they trying to do there? Is Israel tropical, right What does that sort of mean, how they think about medicine and healing? And let’s see, at least in the 19 or, and the Mandate Palestine when Hebrew University was founded – So that’s 1925 and I admit, I don’t know enough about this particular case, but yes, I think the term does convey a certain bias It’s not the very terrible bias, we have worst biases in this world, but what it does convey is the idea that So in Hebrew, when you say (speaks in foreign language) or tropical diseases, you’re referring to all, whatever from a European perspective seemed to be like those weird diseases that come from this other place of the world where you don’t have public health and sanitation and all that And when you say that, people don’t imagine, at least when I heard that term earlier in my life, I never imagined a tropical storm here in Charleston I imagined diseases in places like Africa and Asia, which I think is what the term is meant to convey In other words, diseases that civilized people didn’t bring in These are diseases that come from those yucky places like Asia and Africa And I think that’s what the term means And it is ’cause I see a sort of a follow up here on that Whether it’s used in the UK, again, I’m not sure Possibly, since it was adopted during the Mandate years, it is very possible that that’s where it was used – I believe that malaria was traced to African mosquitoes and coming from Africa, by the way, yellow fever in the American South also came from Africa, on the slave ships, according to the scholars, they brought us African mosquitoes So it may be related to that, but it’s also as suggested, that the British focus on tropical diseases or the world’s problems, come from hot places, had some impact there But it’s really quite fascinating and it reminds us how medicine and certain world views coalesce – Exactly [Jonathan] Yeah – Yeah, so I wanted to ask, this is a question that came in when we talk about the Ottoman government, right You and I both know that this is a mass network of people with different levels, different kinds of positions, there’re religious leaders, secular leaders, officials, local politicians So when we talk about Ottomans trying to let’s say rain and plagues, or some of the measures that you’ve talked about, who are they doing, like who is actually doing this, who is involved? How does this change let’s say, especially as we reach the late Ottoman period, right? Which corresponds to more immigration to Palestine And does it sort of tell us anything about disease and contagion through these lenses? – Well, that’s a good question In the span of one session like this, it’s very hard to get into the specifics and you’re right, when we say Ottoman government, of course, this is a very, very broad term and we should not understand the Ottoman government the same way we understand government today The Ottoman government at least until the mid 19th century was a very diffused entity And when we say this, we are really talking about a combination of local and regional and some central initiatives, but mostly not So who are we talking about? I think and this was in part Emmy Singer’s question I think And she has it all there in the question, but maybe our viewers can’t see it So we’re talking about local governors, and community leaders and judges, Kadhis, and various elite individuals who were very influential sometimes, very influential, sometimes they’re called notables of cities in the research All of those people could affect

this sense of public policy, and the reason is that there was no one centralized public policy So if you want the parallel, you can say, well, in the United States, in the absence of action from the federal government, you see all sorts of policies at the state level And even we’ve seen within States where governors didn’t enact policies, we’ve seen certain cities enact their own policies Here in South Carolina is a great example We had limited intervention from the state government and therefore cities, you know, Charleston had its own, regulations Some of the beach islands here shut down beach access, even though the central, the state government didn’t issue those orders So I think this would be, with of course some differences, this would be a good parallel to look at When you have a diffused central leadership, in the case of the Ottoman State, that’s just how the state was built It wasn’t purposely done that way But when you have the lack of this kind of a central leadership, then you have all sorts of participants setting that policy And so we do have, it’s hard to speak about the Ottoman Empire overall, even though I try to draw those generalizations as much as I can But it is true that we do have local responses that differ even from city to city – No, I wanted to take a moderator’s prerogative to ask about something I don’t think we’ve talked about and that’s cultural and maybe to some extent religious output, right We know from other instances that these sort of plagues and diseases, often either inspire writers, right? There’s “The Plague” right? We know that one by Camus Or inspire religious thinkers, religious , revivalism, et cetera Do we know of that happening in Mandate Palestine, or maybe other areas in the earlier on in the Ottoman Empire, right Do they have any effects let’s say outside the realm of policy and diseases, but on people’s every day lives and practices? – Yeah, definitely, but not as much as I would have liked – Okay – So in late Ottoman or Mandatory Palestine, so first half of the 20th Century, I’m not familiar with anybody It is possible that there are because I have not studied the literary side of it too often And in fact, I would expect it to be, because we know that reports about those things appear in letters that that Zionist settlers sent back home to their families that we’re still in Europe, for example We know about that We know that that there were Ottomans who were writing, and mostly the stuff that didn’t get published, but we see it in manuscripts Writing in a more literary fashion about people dying and diseases and disasters of various natures – And kah-DAH-khaht, and you point out properly, that malaria is a little different, but just, I mean first of all, entrance of a (foreign language) a kah-DAH-khaht becomes much more than malaria, but then you have Ben-Gurion’s famous essay (Hebrew:) Avodah, Kah-DAH-khaht VeRa’av as if malaria is somehow co-equal to labor and hunger as part of what characterizes the pioneer experience – And that’s how we saw it Because Ben Brilliant himself as, you know, worked as a farmer and experienced that And kah-DAH-khaht, malaria, also appears in the works of Agnon, for example And if you go even earlier to the earlier Zionists writers like Brennan, for example It appears there it’s there it’s something that bothers the mind, but we don’t see, you know what, I don’t wanna say, we don’t see I’ll say I haven’t seen, maybe it’s there and I’m not familiar with it ’cause literary every stuff again is not my expertise, but I was more thinking about essays that are devoted to this, that demonstrate how life has changed Like Voltaire’s essay on the Lisbon earthquake, for example, which is not an epidemic, put again it change many things in the minds of many people So that kind of work, I haven’t seen, we may, you know, people are writing about the current situation, we’re just gonna have to be patient and see what comes out of that – Yeah, there is a book on the impact of tuberculosis,

which is not a real epidemic, but tuberculosis, especially in the United States has a dramatic impact and is much written about by authors, both in Europe and in the United States And there’s a recent book on that, which could serve as a model We wanna move on to other questions, ’cause we’ve only got a few minutes, yeah – Right, so one other question, there was a question about a locust outbreak during World War I and Mandate Palestine and the effects that had, whether it’s on the war effort or the Ottomans, just from an American context, right We know that locust outbreaks are hugely devastating to the economy, let’s say of settlers and pioneers in the Midwest So just curious, this plague, let’s say of biblical proportions, how that plays into what’s going on in World War I and Mandate Palestine – Yeah, I’m afraid there’s not much I can say about this I’m not, I mean, I know of the locusts natural plague is a locust attack, maybe, I don’t know, I’m familiar with the story, but I haven’t studied it enough to talk about the relationship between the Ottoman leadership and the Yishuv Overall, the relationship in the last, let’s say 10 years of Ottoman rule, was one that really depended a lot on personal connections And if you could bribe the right individuals, that’s until the war started, of course force once the war starts, the Ottomans are constantly suspicious of the Jews for being on the British side, which of course most of them were So that relationship was problematic during the war the Ottomans expelled Jews from certain parts There’s the famous April, 1917 expulsion from Tel Aviv of all the Jews they were, of course they later came back So it was a very rocky relationship in the last 10 years in part, because the Ottomans had so many other issues that they had to deal with that they didn’t have too much patience for dealing with issues in Palestine, but specifically about this, I’m afraid, I don’t know enough, I’m sorry – That’s okay, so thank you so much I saw that there was a question about current numbers and what’s going on as well currently Know that, in addition, well, in addition to the seminar in two weeks, our seminar in four weeks will be about the current situation, so stay tuned for that I again want to thank Yaron, Jonathan, Anna and Rise who helped on the technical side I invite you all to come back two weeks from today, on July 7th, where I will be in conversation with Mark Kligman, who is a musicologist at UCLA We will be talking about trends in Israeli music, titled “Hotel Corona.” So see, I will all see you then Thank you again all so much for coming and have a wonderful day, thank you – Thank you – [Jonathan] Thank you