Israel’s Health Ministry issued a warning on Tuesday that several cases of cornea infections may be linked to a parasite in the Kinneret, also known as Sea of Galilee. A professor specializing in ancient medicine noted that this modern infection may have ancient roots that appear in the Talmud as well as the New Testament.
So far, 29 Israelis were hospitalized with cornea lesions that characterize microsporidiosis that could cause severe inflammation of the cornea, corneal scarring, and even permanent vision impairment. An epidemiological investigation revealed that at least some of the patients bathed in the Kinneret.
The Health Ministry recommends using goggles when bathing in the Kinneret and if any inflammation of the eyes develops, it is recommended to contact an ophthalmologist. Drinking water from the Kinneret poses no risk.
This disease is reminiscent of a story in the New Testament in which Jesus was said to have healed a blind man by putting spittle in his eyes. The blind man was from Bethsaida, a city on the shore of the Kinneret.
The Talmud also relates several cases in which eye ailments are healed by spittle placed in the eye. In one case (Baba Batra 126b), a person told Rabbi Chanina that the spittle of a firstborn can heal. In another case (Sotah), Rabbi Meir was struck with an eye ailment and requested that a woman spits in his eyes seven times.
Prof. Meir Bar-Ilan of Bar Ilan University has written several books on medicine and healing from the Bible and ancient cultures. He noted a possible connection between the modern outbreak and ancient accounts.
“Rabbi Meir lived about a century after Jesus,” Rabbi Bar-Ilan told Israel365 News. “And he lived on the shore of the Kinneret. If scientists identify a parasite in the Kinneret that causes eye infections, it could very well be that the same or similar parasitic infection existed 2,000 years ago.”
“Of course, the people of the time would not have identified it as a parasite,” he added. “But folk medicine was quite developed. Much of what is known about Jesus is that had a reputation for being a healer. As were many of the Talmudic sages.”