Palestine is a city in Anderson County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 17,598, and 18,458 in the 2009 estimate. It is the county seat of Anderson County and is situated in East Texas. Palestine was named for Palestine, Illinois, by Daniel Parker. The largest employer is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which employs more than 3,900. Another 1,600 work at two Wal-Mart distribution centers. Other significant employers include a thriving medical and healthcare sector that tends to the large population of retirees. Palestine entered the news in February 2003, as one of the East Texas towns that received much of the debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, where seven astronauts were killed, including the first Israeli astronaut. Palestine is also home to the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (renamed after the shuttle crash), which has flown 1700 high-altitude balloons for universities and research agencies.