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You’ll Never Guess Which Airline Doesn’t Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Browsing El Al’s in-flight entertainment? You’re in for a lesson in geography.

Liel Leibovitz
February 12, 2018
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Yaakov Bleich is the chief rabbi of Ukraine, which is the kind of job that requires a lot of international air travel. Recently, darting from New York to Israel, the rabbi boarded El Al’s new Boeing 787 “Dreamliner,” expecting a comfortable flight. To pass his time, he toyed around with the aircraft’s personal entertainment system, which includes a very detailed map of the world, with brief explanations in Hebrew and in English teaching the jet-setting passengers a bit about the world’s cities.

Click on Warsaw, for example, and the system will inform you that it is Poland’s capital. Choose Toronto, and you’ll learn that it is “the capital of the province of Ontario and Canada’s largest city.” Jerusalem? Here we go:

Jerusalem combines the old and modern times, teeming with monuments rich with history spanning over 4000 years.

Jerusalem is one of the holiest sites worldwide for Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and contains numerous religious and holy location, each holding deep meaning for the 3 religions.

Noteworthy places to visit in Jerusalem are The Old City, Temple Mount, Mount of Olives, Mount Herzl and many more.

Even if you ignore the poor grammar and obvious lack of spellchecking, the failure to mention that Jerusalem is also the capital city of a modern state at least as worthy of recognition as the province of Ontario is rankling. Rabbi Bleich, incensed, shared his story with the Israeli press, which, in turn, pressed El Al for an answer.

Oopsies, said the national carrier. The text, they explained, was generated by an application created by Panasonic, is the same Boeing uses on all of its Dreamliners, and was merely translated into Hebrew by El Al. The company also promised to fix the mistake soon and update the slide. No word yet whether Boeing, currently engaged in an $8 billion deal with Iran, plans to do the same.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.