Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
About Diseases

1

The festivities passed and all the joy turned to gloom. Malaria which is wont to strike most days of the year went on striking. There wasn't a house where someone wasn't sick. Add to that an epidemic of influenza. And to those two evil diseases Jerusalem is used to, add meningitis, called stiff neck. Sick paupers, especially among the Ashkenazim, decayed in their diseases.

There are some doctors who say disease comes from the bad water, for at that time, the water in the cisterns ran out and only foul water remained. And there are other doctors who say that the dung and the filth in the city bring the disease. And there are some doctors who say that the prayer shawl and the Shtrayml bring the disease with them. In the home of the sick person, they are placed on the sickbed, and on the Sabbath a person goes to the synagogue, and spreads the evil germs from the private sphere to the public sphere. In addition, there is the ritual bath. There are ritual baths filled with turgid water changed only once in two moths, and the water in the women's ritual bath that must be filled with rainwater is changed only three times a year. In addition to all these reasons is the poverty, for they live in crowded apartments and they eat tuna that is one or two years old, and they drink the bad water, and latrines overflow and stink up the air.

Fear increases. One doctor says the situation is dangerous. And his colleague adds, It is dreadful. And things are terrifying even to the healthy. And everyone who can is ready to take his family and get out of the city, but there's no place to flee, for bad rumors come from other places, until they see all kinds of hallucinations. The doc-

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