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)
  1. joe

    Didn't mean to post twice sorry

    March 15, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  2. joe

    The problem here is religion in general.god is a myth.remember kids science flys to the moon reeligion flys into buildings!

    March 15, 2011 at 3:51 am |
  3. joe

    The problem here is religion in general. god is a myth. remember kids science flys to the moon religion flys into buildings!

    March 15, 2011 at 3:44 am |
    • redd52

      who designed the olfactory bulb in your head? you think your heart's valves just made itself out of thin air? you think instincts that baby animals have just came about? get real, guy.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  4. Frank

    Anyone with an 8th grade education should have been able to determine they were Jews and not Muslims. Jews and Christians don't take over civilian airplanes by force and crash them into buildings. Nor do they sneak into someone's home in the middle of the night, and butcher an entire family while they sleep including children and an infant baby.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:39 am |
  5. Parker Lewis

    As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it's kinda ironic that 3 innocent Jews caused this in-flight safety scare. Bitter irony. Thankfully Congressman Peter King wasn't on board.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  6. TRUTH

    I dont think it was right of them to pray out loud. Considering past incidents, people will definitely get scared. They could have prayed quietly. In Islam, we are also taught to pray at the start of a journey for a safe trip. Everyone can pray on a plane, but they shud keep in mind not to do so in a way that would disturb others.

    March 15, 2011 at 3:36 am |
  7. Lucky Louie

    Would it have been so hard to tell the flight attendant, "We're Jewish and it's time for our prayers." Or did they care about anybody else?

    March 15, 2011 at 3:04 am |
  8. Diane

    As a Caucasian American MUSLIM, I was clearly profiled yesterday on a domestic flight. Instead of the body imaging scan, I opted for a body search. Of the people being searched, I was the ONLY one tested for explosives via test swipes. The "random" checks should be consistent in thoroughness or it is just a farce to profile. I would respect and have more trust, if it was done as such, especially for the safety of all of us!

    March 15, 2011 at 2:55 am |
    • Albus

      So you stood and watched all the passengers go through security and can say without a doubt, YOU were the only one swab tested? Wow, you have a strange way of traveling.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:02 am |
  9. Ryan

    After reading most comments. I'm still pretty apathetic to this posting. You guys and gals are idiots. Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc etc. Straight up. I can't believe some hasidic jews are going to scare people and "language other than spanish." PLEASE PLEASE get over yourselves.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  10. mmi16

    GOD speaks with multi-forked tongue as each of the thousands of religions believe they are the TRUE WORD OF GOD.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • ssolilrose

      Actually, Pagans believe there are many paths to a better afterlife.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:37 am |
  11. janet

    I'm Jewish by birth, not religious. I think it was insensitive of them to pray and have "black leather straps wrapped around the left arm and around the forehead". Really, in this age where people are jumpy about terrorism doing some religious ritual (regardless of the ritual) with weird stamps attached to your body is going to alarm people. Do it before or afer the flight.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  12. Brian

    There is nothing more false than praying in public. A psychologist would call this histrionics.

    March 15, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • vic

      It was a mere check for the presense of any moslems on board. Kind of an in-flight lure. Public display of belief is mildly idiotic, considering the number of intellectuals Jews produced. Not a single God specifies a public provocation as an expression of devotion. I saw a similar scene in Amsterdam airport, and I found it as pathetic.

      March 15, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  13. jo an

    Anyone see similarity between ORTHODOX JEWS and RADICAL MUSLIMS?????? DUH!! The Orthodox Jews will not flush the toilet on Saturday...my son worked at a hotel where they had a convention...he had to do it....Yes....there are 'crazies' everywhere...Oh yes...they would not push the button on the elevator....They are the ones building all the settlements on the land that belongs to the Palestinians.....THEY BELIEVE THEY ARE THE CHOSEN ONES.....

    March 15, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • Bob Bales

      Yes, I see a definite difference between not pushing the elevator button on Saturday and being a suicide bomber.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:17 am |
    • BoT

      But these fine jewish folks also believe that Palestinians are Amalek (a tribe that apparently beat up on Jews during the Exodus) and, according to rabbi Israel Hess, Jews must "commit genocide," to destroy all the Amalek. The punishment is is set out in the Book of Samuel 15:3, which states "Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him, but put to death both man and woman, child and infant." Yes praise the all merciful peace-loving God! Heaven must be one Hell of a place.

      March 15, 2011 at 4:11 am |
  14. corrina bassey

    imagine if 3 other people had decided to join with a different religion and language. FREAKY

    March 15, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  15. mike kerns

    after reading all these post only confirms my absolute respect for thomas jefferson and john lockes belief a wall seperating religion from goverment

    March 15, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  16. Something2say

    Wow, so this is what happens when a university comes to town. The simple minded country folk get a liberal, New World Order, religion is a sickness, I have all the answers and you don't mind-screwing. As usual, this whole thing has been turned into a battle in the "culture war" the media needs us to fight. This is a story about the understandable hypersensitivity associated with traumatic events such as 9/11(regardless of the faith of those involved). Juan Williams was absolutely right and you all know it...you just can't admit it because then you might be labeled a bigot or a hate monger. This story isn't about religion or God or any thing else the Left needs a venue to attack. It's about some Jewish guys who were sadly mistaken for Muslim terrorists (yes, Muslims, I said it...gasp!).

    March 15, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • Edwin

      Just because it is understandable does not make it a good thing. It is sad that we live in a world so afraid of people who are different from us.

      March 15, 2011 at 2:21 am |
    • Gary

      Twist this around & blame it on the libs. I love your creativity!

      March 15, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  17. American Rebel

    Religion is the masterminds of all cons. Want to get rich? Pretend you work for GOD. It's been done through out time and yet we have never once seen this or any other GOD. Quit falling for the oldest (literally) trick in the book and start thinking for yourselves.

    March 15, 2011 at 1:54 am |
    • Gary

      Amen brother! Can I get a witness?

      March 15, 2011 at 2:18 am |
    • Rolph

      Put God up there with Santa and the Easter bunny

      March 15, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  18. corrina bassey

    I know people are going to spin this out of control.regardless of religion or language, do it quietly in the terminal and after you land. flying is very stressful without anyone making it worse. i would have screamed and asked to be let out... imagine if 3 other people had joined wth a different religion and language just as loud.. that was FREAKY

    March 15, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • Edwin

      Not every religion offers the luxury of allocating prayers to times of convenience. Some religions require prayers for certain events, or at certain times. This cannot always happen in the airport - it may have to happen on the plane.

      I would guess your particular religion does not have such constraints, or you would understand.

      March 15, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • Mb


      I agree with Corinna. If prayer is so important to an individual and he/ she has to pray at specific times, do it quietly OR choose another time to fly.

      March 15, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  19. Gary

    Jewish Jihadists. Gotta love it!

    March 15, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • sam


      March 15, 2011 at 3:38 am |
  20. Dave

    "A language other then Spanish" - like English? Scary!

    March 15, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • JD

      Uh . . . Jews praying . . . from Torah . . . written in Hebrew . . . flight from Mexico . . . language of Mexico: Spanish . . . IDIOT!

      March 15, 2011 at 2:01 am |
    • Chris

      Book'em Danno... they should have known better. I'm sure god could have waited for them to get on the ground for all that mess.

      March 15, 2011 at 3:45 am |
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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.