Medical Treatment of Jewish Moroccan Children in the 1950’s

The treatment of North African immigrant children for ringworm and trachoma was a traumatic episode in the annals of Israel’s social history.

The National Library of Israel

These treatments were not only administered in the fledgling State of Israel with the arrival of the immigrants. Various Jewish organizations traveled to North Africa, especially to Morocco, in order to administer treatment against ringworm and other diseases even before the children and their families left for Israel.

One of these organizations—acting out of the purest Zionist intentions, and perhaps herein is the tragedy of the matter—was the international Jewish organization OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants). Founded in St. Petersburg in 1912 as OZE (“Obschtestvo zdravookhraneniia evreev,” devoted to the promotion of health, hygiene and childcare among the Jews), its mission was to provide healthcare for Jews in places with inferior sanitary conditions. After WWII the organization headquarters moved to Paris and focused on offering healthcare to Holocaust survivors and mainly the children among them. The organization also later worked in North Africa, Iran, and the young State of Israel.

One of the organization’s activities was to establish well-baby clinics in Morocco. A photograph album documenting part of its activities in Morocco was preserved in the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (which was eventually incorporated into the NLI archive). Thus, photos of the organization’s volunteers have come to light showing them helping to provide milk to children, instructing parents, conducting various medical examinations, and treating ringworm and trachoma using those drastic measures, which, in retrospect, was the real tragedy.

The photographs were used by the organization for purposes of public relations and fundraising.  

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