Congratulations to Ian Howie-Willis and co-authors for publishing ‘A Beacon of Hope’

Congratulations to Matthew Glozier, Ian Howie-Willis and John Pearn for the publication of A Beacon of Hope: The St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group — 140 years of eye care in the Holy Land, 1882–2002 (St John Ambulance Australia Ltd, 2022).

‘This 600-page commemorative history has been produced by three independent professional Australian historians to mark the 140th anniversary of an ophthalmic hospital established by the Order of St John in Jerusalem in 1882. Since then the hospital has diversified and now comprises an ‘Eye Hospital Group’ of four hospitals, in Jerusalem, Gaza, Hebron and Anabta, and a mobile outreach service for patients in remote communities. Because of environmental, cultural and socio-economic factors, endemic eye diseases have always been a major health hazard in the Middle East. In particular, trachoma and conjunctivitis, two easily preventable and readily cured infectious diseases, are principal causes of blindness among the peoples of the region. Recognising this problem, the Order of St John began conducting its first eye hospital in Jerusalem under dispensation from the Ottoman empire in November 1882. In the meantime, the Eye Hospital Group has become a world leader in its specialised field of ophthalmic medicine. The book tells the story of how the Order of St John, an ancient charitable and humanitarian organisation, has saved the sight of many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis through its Eye Hospitals. It shows how the Eye Hospital Group has not only survived for 140 years in a region of extraordinary political instability but has continually adapted to the increasingly high demands of sophisticated, modern ophthalmic medicine. This is an achievement accomplished despite the transition between five successive governing authorities, two world wars, four Arab-Israeli wars, two intifadas and many more riots, insurrections and military actions than can be counted. Throughout such turbulence, the Eye Hospital Group has maintained its humanitarian ethos, dispensing its sight-saving services at no charge to those in need — regardless of their race, religion, culture, class or nationality. Remarkably, the Eye Hospital Group remains a charity. Unlike other similar institutions elsewhere, it has never received government funding. The Eye Hospital Group truly is ‘a beacon of hope’ to the communities it serves, as one resident of Gaza recently described it. The book was launched in London in June; and an Australian launch took place at Government House, Canberra, in July.’