There are no borders seen from space…that such beauty can be discerned from a part of the world – the Cradle of Civilization – where so much tragedy and suffering occurs is perhaps the cruelest of ironies.
From space the political unrest in Egypt, the ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the gut-wrenching savagery of the Syrian Civil War, and the millions of Syrians displaced and suffering as a result, are rendered invisible. This picture is both moving and breathtaking, and should remind us all that whatever our differences and accidents of geography we share the same Pale Blue Dot, as the late Carl Sagan once described our planet.
In reality, however, a celestial perspective can also blind us to the banality of evil and the ongoing suffering of ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.
It is nice to think that pictures like this in the hands of all of our leaders could change perspectives and open hearts to peace and reconciliation. Perhaps, one day, that might just happen, but ever since the classic picture of Earth-rise taken from the Moon in the late 1960s, the only ones who seem to understand this perspective are our astronauts and cosmonauts, and our poets.
In this picture, the Middle East is seen from 250 miles (approximately 400km) above in this photo from the International Space Station (ISS). Countries seen left to right along the Mediterranean coast include Egypt, Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. The major waterways shown from left to right are the Nile River, Gulf of Suez, Gulf of Aqaba, and the Red Sea.
The photograph was taken by the current Commander of the ISS, American astronaut Tim Kopra, using a Nikon D4 camera, on 14 April 2016.