Why Doesn’t Google Use Hebrew For Maps Of Israel? by the Forward

Why Doesn’t Google Use Hebrew For Maps Of Israel?

Google Maps is perhaps the most impressive cartographic endeavor in world history, with nearly the entire globe detailed down to the street level and available for free public perusal. Its latest update, last month, was praised for finally eliminating the Mercator Projection — the flat-pane system that distorts Greenland to falsely look bigger than Africa.

Google Maps also uses local languages to display foreign places — but Israel seems to be a curious exception.

American users looking for a map of the southern Israeli city of Eilat, for example, will find that the name “Eilat” is displayed only in English — even though the names of its neighboring foreign cities — Taba, Egypt and Aqaba, Jordan — are displayed in both English and Arabic. The Hebrew word for “Eilat” is nowhere to be found.

Indeed, nowhere in Israel are Hebrew place names displayed — not even in globally-recognized cities like Tel Aviv, let alone Jerusalem or areas in the West Bank. In contrast, every single one of Israel’s neighbors — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria — all get both English and Arabic place names.

And the discrepancy is not just in the Middle East: Moscow is also depicted in Cyrillic, Tokyo in Japanese and Mumbai in Hindi. Even countries with more obscure languages — Ethiopia, Armenia, Cambodia — get the dual-language treatment. But not Israel.

It’s not as if Google is incapable of depicting Hebrew script — the Israeli version of Google Maps clearly depicts Eilat’s Hebrew name. And Google has large research and development offices in Haifa and Tel Aviv and has made significant investments in Israeli startups — most notably its $1.3 billion purchase of Israeli map tech company Waze.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Aiden Pink at pink@forward.com or on Twitter, @aidenpink

Author

Aiden Pink

Aiden Pink

Aiden Pink is the Deputy News Editor for the Forward. Contact him at pink@forward.com or on Twitter, @aidenpink .

Why Doesn’t Google Use Hebrew For Maps Of Israel?

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Why Doesn’t Google Use Hebrew For Maps Of Israel?

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close