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Alnka is the word for a leech (Haemopsis sanguisuga) in ancient Hebrew. The word appeared in the Jewish Bible in Proverbs 30:15, where it was variously translated as leech or horseleech. The word was derived from an Arabic word (alukah), meaning “to hang to.” In Syria and Israel, there were several species of leeches, one of which would attach itself to the neck of horses as they drank from streams. Others dwelt in more stagnant waters and would cling to the legs of any who wandered their way. They were known for their tenacity in adhering to the skin, and often could only be detached by killing them.
Some have suggested that the cryptic expression in Proverbs, “The leech (aluka) has two daughters, Give, Give,” in fact, referred not to the common leech but to a mythological vampire figure, a Syrian/Hebrew derivation of the Arabic ghoul, which sucked blood and dined on the flesh of the dead. During the nineteenth century, such an interpretation was offered by several Bible scholars, however, it was always a minority interpretation and is no longer regarded as a viable option by contemporary scholars.