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. just me

    Probably another band of those Jewish extremist terrorists you always hear about.

    March 15, 2011 at 5:13 am |
  2. Why

    Next thing the towelheads are going to throw there blankets down and start mumbling in the aisles... just stay in your seat and shut the F*^* up.. Jews with knotted towels... Now we have to know every religion and what to expect.. You better be locked and loaded.. It's coming

    March 15, 2011 at 5:08 am |
  3. newangle

    Do you think the Hindus and Buddhists had anything to do with it all? Or, is it just the Jews and Muslims?

    March 15, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  4. HJC

    Considering the declining quality of air travel, any prayers are probably a commentary on the level of passenger confidence, or lack thereof.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:57 am |
  5. Joe

    This would be so funny if it wasn't so embrassing. " some language other then spanish" WHOA! That guy is praying in Italian! Turn this thing around, halt all air traffic and clear the plane! Seriously, overreact much? If they are going to judge peoples religious practices they better become extremely familiar with all religions. You can't stop a flight everytime someone is doing something you don't understand. Either learn all major religious practices or don't freak out over them. Also, you are an airline. English and Spanish are not the only languages on this planet, as an airline you would think they would be aware of this concept.

    March 15, 2011 at 4:50 am |
  6. joe

    No one wants to debate here?

    March 15, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  7. joe

    You know I get the fact that all you people have the freedom of religion here in america but shouldn't I be allowed the freedom from religion?

    March 15, 2011 at 4:39 am |
  8. joe

    Incest was praticed in most religions thats why I avoid it people always want to talk about the good thing religion does but never about the incest, molestion and murder

    March 15, 2011 at 4:35 am |
  9. joe

    Augure I'm talking you you bigot

    March 15, 2011 at 4:30 am |
  10. joe

    If you think that cnn is puting a positve light on jews because it run by jews your just plain dumb

    March 15, 2011 at 4:27 am |
  11. joe

    I'm more afraid of white christians then any other people

    March 15, 2011 at 4:23 am |
  12. joe


    March 15, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  13. Augure

    "They were extremely cooperative"

    It's funny how CNN portrays this arrestation in a positive light, because we all KNOW who own CNN...

    But jewish people have to start realizing something...the day white people will come for muslim, then black people, then guess who is going to be next...

    March 15, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  14. joe

    I just want to get under peoples skin here. I don't care what religion you are or arn't. I however do not believe in god I just just think all of you religious fanatics need to lighten up and learn to be more accepting of others

    March 15, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  15. joe


    March 15, 2011 at 4:10 am |
  16. PrayingJew

    Wow some people on this site are so ignorant, including some of the Jews talking! There are certain prayers that are said in certain times, and flight is one of those times. Really, a leather strap attached to a piece of plastic is a bomb? Do none of you wear a belt? Really? All of these comments, or even this entire article, are here to impose anti-semitism, or anti-zionism. I am a businessman who happens to fly quite frequently, and I see these "radical orthodox Jews" praying on flights very often. What has this world come to? You guys want to play this game? Fine. Next time I'm on a plane, if I hear anybody speak any other language other than english and they're wearing anything other then shoes, shirt, and pants, I'm calling the flight attendant and demanding that they contact the nearest tower. You people disgust me; ignorant to the point of no return. Whats next? Jew gets arrested for eating too many bagels? What has this vile world come to??

    March 15, 2011 at 4:09 am |
  17. joe

    Thats why people love religion they can make statements that have no basis in fact and say it's faith cause you just gotta belive read a book other then the bible would you please

    March 15, 2011 at 4:07 am |
  18. joe

    The 3 biggest problems in the country are guns, religion, and the ease of accsess to both. free your mind fools

    March 15, 2011 at 4:03 am |
  19. Rumi

    why does cnn filter and delete posts that are not in favor of what their opinion is?

    March 15, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Augure

      Well guess who own CNN...you're one of those who still don't get it are you?

      March 15, 2011 at 4:17 am |
  20. Omar

    What if they were Muslim? :O

    March 15, 2011 at 4:00 am |
    • Andy

      yeah, what if, would it make any difference if they were praying non-spanish speaking Christians, Buddist, Sikhs, Bahaai or animist?
      Should I worry if they are moslem?

      March 15, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • thack

      Evangelical christians are the ones you need to be more concerned about, especially when they start praying. It's only a matter of minutes before they start pulling their weapons and shooting while invoking god and jesus christ in helping them in killing their enemies.

      March 15, 2011 at 5:03 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.