ISRAEL - Pandemics and Plagues in the Holy Land

Arno Froese

Israelis, along with the rest of the world, are settling into a new reality that changes by the hour, due to the global outbreak of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In addition to the plagues mentioned in the Bible, there was the earliest pandemic on record—the Plague of Athens—which came up through Ethiopia and Egypt in 430 BCE; the Justinian Plague of 541 that spread from Egypt to Palestine, the Byzantine Empire, and the entire Mediterranean region; and the Black Death of 1350, which may have originated in Asia and moved west along the Silk Route, to name but a few.

In recent history, disease and pandemics have played a significant role in fashioning the modern Israeli health system.

Between 1831 and 1840, Jerusalem was controlled by an Egyptian force that brought about renewed Christian interest in the Holy Land. Supported by nobility and governments, missions from different denominations began expanding their presence by building churches, schools, clinics and hospitals.

Jewish and Christian hospitals were also established in Jaffa, Hebron, Tiberias, Nazareth and Safed. A “wandering doctor” service was funded by the Baron Mayer Rothschild to serve settlements in the Galilee.

From 1831 to 1918, in addition to malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox and dysentery, the region suffered from repeated cholera epidemics with high mortality rates.

Quarantine was the major measure taken by the Ottoman government at that time but, particularly in walled cities, it was repeatedly broken by people trying to escape affected areas.

In 1905, British physician and researcher John Cropper, who lived and worked in Jerusalem and Ramallah, wrote that nearly half the population suffered from mosquito-borne malaria.

For the Zionists, Anopheles mosquitoes were the enemy, fought by draining the swamps to eliminate breeding grounds and by practicing good health and hygiene. Malaria was largely controlled by the 1930s, and Israel was declared malaria-free in 1968.

On October 31, 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force launched one of the last great cavalry campaigns and defeated the Turkish Army in the Battle for Beersheva.

“In the EEF (about 315 000 soldiers), disease casualties outnumbered those due to combat by more than 37 to 1,” writes infectious disease expert G. Dennis Shanksin. “Simultaneous epidemics of influenza and malaria [occurred] in the Australian Army in Palestine in 1918.”

This deadly duo did not spare the 7,000-strong British Army Jewish Legion. According to Kjell Jostein Langfeldt Lind’s “The Impact of the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic on Greater Syria,” The Jewish soldiers that saw action in the Palestinian theatre suffered disproportionately to their modest contribution on the battlefield. Their casualties are usually reported as due to malaria. It is highly likely that the flu virus interacted with the malaria parasite.”

Most British military operations were curtailed before the final battle of the Palestine campaign in September 1918. Success may have been due, in part, to the fact that the Ottomans were also hit by both malaria and influenza., 23 March 2020

Arno's commentary

We publish excerpts from the extended article authored by Rachel Neiman on When reading the entire article, one notices the extreme danger of these various pandemics and plagues. Yet in each case, it was somewhat limited to certain geographical areas. The battlefield brought an insignificant number of casualties when compared with those who fell to diseases such as influenza and malaria.

Today, the story is different; the whole world is involved—no one is exempt—and all the authorities in the medical science field are at a loss to effectively identify and treat those affected with coronavirus.

We point to Holy Scripture; in Psalm 83:4 we read, “They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” How does this relate to Israel today? For one thing, all the nations of the world—without exception—do not agree to the borders defined by God Himself for the nation of Israel. In Revelation 20, it speaks of the enemies of God’s people, headed by Satan, who has been loosed. Verses 8-9: “And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

The Bible is a Jewish book; it occupies itself most with God’s chosen nation and their land. In the end, as we read in this Scripture, Satan himself will for the last time try to eradicate the saints of God “and the beloved city.” We note that these diabolical entities do not originate from a certain geographic area, but “they went up on the breadth of the earth.” To achieve that, a truly globalist world society will come into being sooner or later.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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