March 14th, 2011
04:17 PM ET

Prayers spark scare on airplane

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

On Sunday, three Orthodox Jewish businessmen triggered fears on a flight from Mexico City to Los Angeles.

Passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 241 became alarmed when the three men began to pray out loud. "Shortly after takeoff ... three passengers were praying out loud in a language other than Spanish," according to an airline spokeswoman.

"They had something that appeared to the flight attendants to be strapped under their clothing," the spokeswoman said. "The flight attendants alerted the flight deck, who in turn alerted the tower at LAX. Law enforcement met the plane upon arrival."

During weekday prayers, some Orthodox Jewish men wear teflillin, or phylacteries - black leather straps wrapped around the left arm and around the forehead. The straps are connected to small boxes with tiny scrolls containing Jewish scriptures. Many Orthodox Jewish men also wear a prayer shawl called a tallit under their clothes, with knotted fringes at each of the four corners.

The airline spokeswoman said she was unaware if the men were wearing either of these traditional items.

When the planed landed at LAX it was greeted by members of airport police, the FBI and Customs and Border Protection.

According to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller, the men were questioned and their baggage was searched before they were cleared to go.

"The men were extremely cooperative," Eimiller said.

Airport police Sgt. Belinda Nettles told CNN there was never any threat to passenger or aircraft safety.

CNN's Carol Cratty and Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • California • Judaism • United States

soundoff (820 Responses)
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    August 23, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  2. JP

    Just abolish religion entirely. It seems to replace common sense in people and is akin to brainwashing. Besides the fact, that more people have been killed in the name of God than anything else.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  3. Muneef

    -It is only here in America that we have this opportunity to hear people share their thoughts and hopes, and to bring the religious communities closer together.
    Final Remarks
    In conclusion, The Muslims and Jews co-existed in harmony during the rise of Islam and beyond. Islam is a friendly religion to all "It was Muslim Spain, the only land the Jew knew in nearly a thousand years of the diaspora, which made the genius of physician Moses Maimonides possible". Acceptance and virtue are indivisible parts of the Muslim's faith. "The Jews of Banu 'Awf are one nation with the Muslims; the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs". These principles and historical events should create the foundation for better relations and more peaceful future for both Jewish and Muslim Communities.



    March 31, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  4. some emo kid

    Wow, did they hand out computers at the School for Losers today?

    March 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  5. some emo kid

    People pray on airplanes all the time. It's because they are way up in the air and scared.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  6. Ishmail

    Just another example of Americans showing their religious illiteracy!

    March 30, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • john

      if you put people in a situation where they're already nervous, it pays to be prudent. yes, these people were doing nothing wrong, but it's unordinary behavior. back when it was legal to carry pocketknives on airplanes, i always did. it's a handy tool to have, but i never whipped it out, and only used it discreetly. maybe praying in another location prior to boarding would keep everyone happy?

      April 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.