Healing the Land and the Nation Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920-1947
by Sandra M. Sufian
University of Chicago Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-226-77935-5 | Electronic: 978-0-226-77938-6
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226779386.001.0001


A novel inquiry into the sociopolitical dimensions of public medicine, Healing the Land and the Nation traces the relationships between disease, hygiene, politics, geography, and nationalism in British Mandatory Palestine between the world wars. Taking up the case of malaria control in Jewish-held lands, Sandra Sufian illustrates how efforts to thwart the disease were intimately tied to the project of Zionist nation-building, especially the movement’s efforts to repurpose and improve its lands. The project of eradicating malaria also took on a metaphorical dimension—erasing anti-Semitic stereotypes of the “parasitic” Diaspora Jew and creating strong, healthy Jews in Palestine. Sufian shows that, in reclaiming the land and the health of its people in Palestine, Zionists expressed key ideological and political elements of their nation-building project.

Taking its title from a Jewish public health mantra, Healing the Land and the Nation situates antimalarial medicine and politics within larger colonial histories. By analyzing the science alongside the politics of Jewish settlement, Sufian addresses contested questions of social organization and the effects of land reclamation upon the indigenous Palestinian population in a decidedly innovative way. The book will be of great interest to scholars of the Middle East, Jewish studies, and environmental history, as well as to those studying colonialism, nationalism, and public health and medicine.


Sandra M. Sufian is assistant professor of medical history and the humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago.


"A fascinating book that clearly demonstates the complex and important connections between disease, health, politics, and national mythology."
— Nancy Gallagher, H-Net Review

"Healing the Land is an academic exploration of a hitherto underresearched topic of historical and geographical significance and therefore makes an important contribution to the scholarship. . . . [It] is a pleasure to read . . . both because it is beautifully writen and because it establishes its relevance to modern-day Israel. . . . Healing the Land will be of great interest to students and scholars of medical history, colonial history, and historical geograpjhy."
— Geremy Forman, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies


List of Figures and Tables

List of Measures and Currency


List of Abbreviations

introduction A History of Malaria and Zionist Nationalism in Mandatory Palestine

chapter 1. Archetypal Landscape: Healing the Land and the People in the Zionist Imagination

I. Draining the Swamp to Heal the Land

chapter 2. Pathological Landscape: Epidemiology and the Medical Geography of Malaria in Palestine

chapter 3. Potential Landscape: Swamp Drainage Projects and the Politics of Settlement

chapter 4. Technological Landscape: The Jezreel Valley and the Huleh Valley Projects

chapter 5. Perceptual Landscape: Scientific Experimentation, Colonial Medicine, and the Medicalization of Palestine

II. Fighting Malaria to Heal the Jewish Nation

chapter 6. Cultural Landscape: Creating a Culture of Health through Antimalaria Education and Propaganda

chapter 7. Contested Landscape: Palestinian Arabs and Zionist Antimalaria Projects

conclusion Ecological Landscape: Old Paradigms, New Meanings