Charles Bolden, the current Administrator of NASA, took part in the inauguration of a new science and space center in the Israeli Arab town of Sakhnin in the Galilee region on Monday.
Bolden is in Israel to take part in a week of space exploration-related events honoring the 10th anniversary of the Columbia shuttle disaster, in which Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was killed.
While there are a number of seemingly higher profile events taking place, it was important to NASA and the US Embassy that Bolden be at the opening of the Moona science, environment and space center in Sakhnin, as the new facility has the opportunity to further promote Arab-Jewish coexistence.
"A space shuttle successfully connects between 14 astronauts from around the world, no matter what culture, religion, race, gender or nationality they are," Bolden told the students attending the opening. "They all connect, which means that we can also do that on the ground, and in this way, you can act and succeed."
The Moona facility in Sakhnin was a joint effort by the local municipality, the Galilee Development Authority and several private Jewish and Arab organizations. It's establishment further belies the myth that Israel's Jews are practicing apartheid against local Arabs.
Bolden stated on Sunday that he is certain Israel will eventually produce another astronaut, given the country's keen interest in space exploration and its many technological contributions to the field.
Sakhnin Mayor Mazin G'Nayem told Israel's Ynet news portal that with the opening of the new space center, "who knows, maybe Sakhnin will produce an astronaut of its own."