Dangerous Phylacteries

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How has this happened more than once? A couple months ago, there was a story of a kid who was praying on an airplane when the flight attendants mistook him for a terrorist. You’d think that enough of a stink would have been made about this that airlines would have properly trained their flight attendants to recognize t’fillin boxes as just that…and not bombs.

But here we go again. A couple of days ago, on an Alaska Airlines flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles, three Jewish men stood up during the middle of the flight and started to daven. The flight attendants freaked out, and when the plane landed, it was surrounded by the FBI. After the men were questioned, it was determined that they were, in fact, not terrorists.

On the one hand, I guess it’s a good thing to see that flight attendants are super careful and strict when it comes to looking out for abnormal behavior (not to mention the fact that they don’t seem to racially profile Muslims as the only potential terrorists).

But on the other hand, come on. We’ve dealt with this before. I can’t believe that a flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles has never had religious Jews praying on a plane. I’ve brought t’fillin on a plane before. I haven’t put them on mid-flight but I have brought them through security. And not once has the TSA ever not recognized t’fillin. It never gets a second check. So how come this is so hard for flight attendants to deal with?

Posted on March 15, 2011

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2 thoughts on “Dangerous Phylacteries

  1. Charles Haberl

    Dear sir,
    Not being Jewish and rarely coming into contact with Hassidic or Orthodox Jewry I find the type of display described above especially on aircraft or in airports odd to say the least.
    I did see in once at Narita airport in Tokyo while in the company of two Jewish business associates who were less than impressed.
    Had this happened on an aircraft I would be as irritated as if a Muslim had occupied the gangway to knock his head or a nutty preacher had started crying to the heavens.
    I can see some lunatics dressing up as Orthodox Jews in order to smuggle explosives on an aircraft soon.

  2. Gary Ford

    I think the youngster used poor judgment to don phalacteries in such a public place – not that I think it was wrong, just not well thought out under the circumstances. Most non-Jews have no idea what phalacteries are and in this time of suspicion and fear, interpreting an unknown ritual as “Islamic” would be an easy conclusion – even if totally wrong. Fear wins out everytime.

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