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Israel Environment & Nature: Leech

LEECH (Heb. עֲלוּקָה, AV, JPS: "horseleech"), blood-sucking worm.

The aphorism in the Book of Proverbs (30:15) that "the leech hath two daughters: 'Give, give'" refers to the two sucking disks on its head with which it adheres to its prey and sucks its blood. In several places in Israel the Nile leech – Limnatis nilotica – is found in springs and bodies of water and, attaching itself to men or beasts when these wash in or drink from the water, sucks their blood. Because of this the Talmud warns against drinking water directly from rivers and pools (Av. Zar. 12b), an instance being cited of a man who swallowed a leech in this way; for which various remedies are suggested (TJ, Ber. 9:3, 13c). The medicinal leech Hirudo medicinalis is not naturally present in Israel and it is doubtful whether it was known in biblical times.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.