Small science offers big hope for Israeli and Palestinian scientists

Despite the ongoing conflict, Palestinian and Israeli scientists are collaborating with colleagues from Hungary in a trilateral research project that uses nanotechnology to investigate diseases such as HIV. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vivid one that people see on TV …

Despite the ongoing conflict, Palestinian and Israeli scientists are collaborating with colleagues from Hungary in a trilateral research project that uses nanotechnology to investigate diseases such as HIV.


The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vivid one that people see on TV every day. The images are hard to shake, particularly during these troubled times. Most Americans, however, never get a chance to witness another picture, one where Palestinians and Israelis work together – quietly – for the common good of all mankind.

A new scientific research project, first initiated at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, now connects the Palestinian-run Al Quds University in East Jerusalem, to Hungary. The trilateral project, which uses nanotechnology to investigate diseases such as HIV, is just one example of how individuals and nations can overcome political pressures to better science.

The new joint project funded by the Hungarian Government, intends to connect scientists from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hungary to understand the biological processes of diseases, and to stop their spread, using tools in nanotechnology.

The Israeli team headed by Dr. Dan Porath, from the Physical Chemistry Department at Hebrew University, first started working with his Palestinian partner Prof. Mukhlas Swani, when Swani was doing post-doctoral work under Porath.

The main idea of the new nanotechnology project, says Porath, is to conduct research using physical tools to understand the critical points in the life stages of diseases. The research allows the scientists “to see single molecules and monitor processes on the single cell level,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

Giving Palestinians a role model

The next stage in the research will be to test the effects of inhibitors. In essence, explains Porath, they will work together to find a way to prevent the spread of infection to other cells. “We interfere with the life cycle to prevent the spread in other cells… treating single molecules on the nanometer scale.”

The idea for the Palestinians to join forces with the Israelis in a bigger capacity came by way of the Hungarian Embassy’s scientific attaché in Israel. Every participating group will contribute to a part of the project’s science, says Porath.

While Palestinians, for obvious reasons, have more difficulties working and raising funds in science, Porath’s partner, Swani is a role model for other scientists in the Palestinian Authority. “He’s built a beautiful lab and is doing good science in a relatively short time, despite the difficult situation, with the help of two trilateral grants, and with the support of Israeli collaborators,” says Porath.

Hebrew University, Porath adds, has been a long-time collaborator with Palestinian researchers. In a local newspaper, Swani confirms the healthy relationship the two centers of higher learning sustain: “Cooperation between Al Quds University and the Hebrew University has been taking place for years,” he said.

Building on existing cooperation

“After completing my studies at the Hebrew University, I moved to Al Quds University, and I set up among other things with help from researchers at the Hebrew University an innovative and advanced nanotechnology laboratory, with support from the EU,” he added.

According to reports Laszlo Korani from the Hungarian Embassy in Tel Aviv was inspired by a book about the president of Al Quds University. “I read the autobiography of Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University, and I then knew that I also wanted to strengthen the connection to his university. It was only natural to build on cooperation that already existed and to add our sponsorship to it,” Korani says.

Sign up for the ISRAEL21c Newsletter

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman is an award-winning environment news publisher who founded Green Prophet (www.greenprophet.com) to connect North Americans to issues that matter in the Middle East. She is the CEO of the Internet of Things startup flux, a company that is making social grow tools for urban farmers everywhere (www.fluxiot.com). Karin can be reached at karin (at) fluxiot.com.