NASA Tutorial: 'Capital of Israel is Tel Aviv'

The US was first to put a man on the moon -- but its space agency apparently can't figure out where the capital of Israel is on Earth.

Tags: NASA
Chana Ya'ar ,

NASA tutorial says 'capital of Israel is Tel
NASA tutorial says 'capital of Israel is Tel
Israel news photo: Screenshot of Remote Sensing Tutorial / NASA

The United States was the first to put a man on the moon -- but apparently its space agency is unable to figure out where the capital of Israel is on Earth.

According to NASA's Remote Sensing Tutorial, the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv.

This despite a US recognizing the international custom in which nations designate their own capitals. Israel has designated Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.

Primary author Nicholas M. Short, Sr., a former NASA Goddard employee and author/editor of four NASA-sponsored books, who wrote the tutorial website and CD-ROM, completed the massive 15-year project on January 1, 2011.

According to the site, the tutorial is a "survey of the space age that considers what we can learn using sensors operated from satellites and spacecraft which look inward at the Earth -- its land, oceans, and atmosphere -- and outward at the planets, the galaxies and, going back in time, the entire universe -- the cosmos." 

The tutorial serves as a "comprehensive survey of the space program of the United States, and [will also treat] programs supported by Canada, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India and other countries," according to the site. 

Intended to teach faculty and students in colleges and high schools, as well as professionals in various related fields how to interpret and use data acquired by satellite, air and ground sensors, the tutorial presents "remote sensing products" -- images -- which are described in "a running text that explains their characteristics and utility."

Written in a friendly narrative style, the tutorial is intended to be "highly intuitive" and serve as a "teaching tool for the educational community."  The tutorial was dedicated to the memory of the 14 people who lost their lives aboard the two space shuttles that didn't return safely to Earth -- including Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

But when it comes to describing Israel, Short writes in the tutorial that "the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv" and the "West Bank" is "Palestine." 

In Section 6, "Flight Across the United States - Boston to Denver to San Francisco, World Tour" he takes its users on a journey around the world with Landsat, ESA and other satellites. Each photo snapped by the satellite shows a shot of what the "eye in the sky" sees as it crosses the landscape, with a caption of explanation.

In the case of Israel, many of the historical descriptions are Christian:

"The main inland river is the Jordan, notes several times in the Gospels. Its small size is surprising to many visitors. The River Jordan's banks support trees in the north but it becomes barren as it approaches its destination - the Dead Sea."

In fact, Short emphasizes Christian and Muslim points of interest in 5 out of 10 images of the holy city of Jerusalem. But although Jerusalem is mentioned in Jewish prayer three times a day, was a Jewish city since the time of King David and has been for thousands of years, the writer makes only a bare single reference to its Jewish roots.

He points out "the famed 'Wailing Wall,' the holiest site in the Jewish faith, as "all that is left" of the Temple -- and then proceeds to describe it as built by King Herod "two decades before the birth of Christ" before being destroyed by the Romans in 79 CE. [Actually, there were two temples, the first built by King Solomon and each stood for hundreds of years. The second one was destroyed in 70 A.D., ed.] In the next image, Gaza is described as "part of the presumptive Palestinian nation."

The caption in the image that follows informs the reader, "The Israelis and the Muslims have had several (usually short) wars since much of Palestine was given to the Jews in 1947. One adversary has been Jordan; another is Syria..."

The U.S. Air Force Academy initially co-sponsored the work with the now-defunct Applied Information Sciences Branch of the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Since 2005, the tutorial site has been hosted at the U.S. government's Landsat Program Science Office, which is still funded by American taxpayer dollars.

The author also notes in the foreword that he is "in the late stages of diabetes with severe complications and may not even be around if you try to reach me. But try anyway, if you have questions about content or wish to point out any errors. Thank you!"