In 1994-1995, a child and five dogs from villages located between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Israel were diagnosed with visceral leishmaniasis (VL). Based on these findings, the distribution of VL in domestic and wild canids in central Israel was examined. In the two villages where canine index cases were identified, a substantial proportion (11.5%, 14 of 122) of the dogs examined were seropositive. However, the rate of infection in five neighboring villages was only 1% (1 of 99). Parasites were cultured from 92% (12 of 13) of the seropositive dogs biopsied and the strains were characterized as Leishmania infantum by a clamped polymorphic-polymerase chain reaction, monoclonal antibodies, and/or excreted factor serology. The discovery of VL close to major urban centers is an important public health issue. The disease appears to have emerged recently in this area, and it is unclear whether the parasite was re-introduced or was continuously present at low levels in this region. The presence of seropositive wild canids, jackals (7.6%, 4 of 53) and red foxes (5%, 1 of 20), in central Israel, and the reappearance of the jackal population after near extinction suggests that wild canids may play a role in spreading this disease.