First Retinal Research Laboratory opened in Palestinian Territories

Jerusalem, 19. March 2018

On 19 March, the St John Eye Hospital (SJEHG) officially opened the doors of the first retinal research laboratory in the Palestinian Territories. This achievement is part of a three-year research project entitled ‘Peace for Sight’, funded by the EU Peacebuilding Initiative and in partnership with Johanniter Germany and the Hadassah Medical Center. The project aims to provide better diagnosis and treatment of inherited retinal disease across Palestinian Territories.


Tomas Niklasson (left), Deputy Head of EU Delegation, and Dirk Lackovich-Van Gorp (right), Director of Johanniter Programme in the Middle East.

All pictures by St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group

Lead researcher Dr Al Talbishi stated that the laboratory will allow to process patient data more efficiently while it is located where the patients are being screened, which is definitively more convenient. The project aims foster cooperation across the medical communities in Israel and Palestine to tackle preventable blindness in the region. It was fitting therefore that the launch was overseen by a number of international delegates including Mr Tomas Niklasson, Deputy Head of EU Delegation, Mr Dirk Lackovich- Van Gorp, Director of Johanniter Programme in the Middle East, and representatives from Hadassah Medical Center, Prof Eyal Benin and Prof Dror Sharon. SJEHG’s CEO, Dr Ahmad Ma’ali, opened the ceremony with the following words:

“As part of the project we have been able to train two of our doctors and one lab technician in ophthalmic genetics and now have established and fully equipped a genetics lab. This is the first genetics lab ever to serve the Palestinian population living in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Being the first is not strange to us, as St John was the first eye hospital in the Middle East which was established some 135 years ago. Today we treat over 135,000 people across our services each year and this research facility will allow us extend our care to even more needy people.  Reaching those who are most disadvantaged has not been without challenges but thanks to our donors, friends and supporters we have been able to fulfil our mission. We would like to thank the European Union, Johanniter Germany, our partners at Hadassah and other donors for making this possible.”