Israeli medics save the sight of a thousand

By Nathan Jeffay, February 2, 2012
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An Eye From Zion doctor treating a patient

An Eye From Zion doctor treating a patient

Almost 1,000 people in poor countries have received a special gift from Israel over the last six months: their sight.

An Israeli non-profit called Eye From Zion has dispatched doctors to Nepal, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Cambodia, the Maldives and Ethiopia, where they have performed sight-restoring procedures and started to train local medical professionals to do so themselves.

The four-year-old organisation has never performed operations at such a rate: on average it takes it double the amount of time - a whole year - to notch up 1,000 operations. The increased efficiency is in part due to its new innovation: a mobile operating "room" that surrounds the patient's head, creating a clean environment large enough to enable doctors to treat the eyes.

Eye From Zion sets up mobile clinics in towns and outlying villages and performs cataract, oculoplastics and other sight-restoring treatments. Its founder Nati Marcus views the work as part of the Jewish tradition of making the world a better place. "We see ourselves as the goodwill ambassadors of Israel and the Jewish people," he said.

Eye From Zion's doctors are leaders of their field in Israel. One is Shmuel Levartovsky, head of the ophthalmology department at Ashkelon's Barzilai Hospital, who just returned from Myanmar. "You have to use far more clinical judgement in the less than perfect conditions, but we manage to keep up very high standards," he said.

One of the things that helps the doctors is the fact that donations from Magen David Adom, the Israeli government and elsewhere mean that equipment is normally in good supply - and delivered before they arrive by diplomatic post.

Last updated: 1:26pm, February 2 2012