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. Cleveland Jim

    Did anyone just ask them what they were doing?

    March 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  2. Ted Williams

    It's certainly interesting how people in the complete thrall of YahrWeehr can't take three seconds before their boogety-boogety Demon-Wizard worship to say "oh, by the way, our customs ask that we wear these phylacteries and pray to our God, which will only take a minute, so we hope you aren't inconvenienced" and not disturb the single frigging first person on the plane and instead just leap up and start blabbering in Jew and flinging little leather boxes here and there and just expect you to shut the *$&% up and sit the (@#& down because God God God and God and we're just beyond special and how DARE you be alarmed by our actions when lunatic prayer in some gutter language was the prelude to a bunch of towel-head pedophile-worshipers murdering a few thousand people and so we're just special and awesome like that.

    Seriously. If you can't make it not terrify the rest of the population then just buy your own airline, because we sure as *$&@ know you have the diamonds to do it...

    March 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • ashkenazi

      Have you ever seen an Orthodox Jew? they usually mumble quietly when they pray, they don't yell. They also stand in one spot and rock (actually it's a bit more than that). They also don't fling anything around. They hold their prayer book in their hands. Don't really see what's wrong with that.
      Before you start a conversation with the person next to you do you warn everyone on the plane that you will be making "obnoxious sounds that are full of sound and fury signifying nothing. So I hope it won't bother you"?

      March 15, 2011 at 12:43 am |
  3. Voice of Reason

    When an airline epic fails at profiling passengers like this, they should at least compensate them
    With frivolous flyer miles.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  4. ethan

    they should of just waited to get off the plane then pray. im pretty sure their god would understand praying on a plane wil lfreak a bunch of people out

    March 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  5. jma58

    Voodoo in meant to scare people.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  6. iamthefredman

    Unless you live in NYC/Brooklyn most people (especially from Mexico) have probably never seen Orthodox Jews in full religious garb praying. They should be aware of that and shold have told TSA and the flight crew before they started praying.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Rev. Keith R. Wright

      Yeah, and their cookie-cutter Stepford Wives and their creepy wigs.
      "Look at me! I'm religious!!! God thinks I'm special because of what I wear!" Odd, in the OT, they would separate those who had poor eyesight as being less than perfect. Somehow, they re-wrote the law and now they can wear glasses. Why can't they do the same for bbq pork?

      March 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Kyle

      Yes it's the jews fault that the people flying with them are stupid, ignorant and intolerant.

      March 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  7. The "airline spokesman" is an ignoramus

    I wonder if it reflects the views of the airline?

    March 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  8. gayfocker

    You what is most disturbing about this? A plane is not a place to express your freedoms. After 911 anything could be misinterpreted. I would pay another fee if I could keep the person in the seat next to me from talking the whole way. When do the rest of us get our rights?- you know – the right to not have to put up with the idiots! Moo-ham-made!

    March 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Kyle

      I bet if someone dressed in traditional muslim garb went and complained about a bunch of baptists singing on the plane they wouldn't have been met at LAX with the FBI. Ignorance and prejudice are no excuse for bad behavior. We have christians fighting to make public school give them time to pray and have church clubs, but when jews or muslims do it in a public place it requires a call to the FBI and they claim the jews are being insensitive? What a bunch of stupid, prejudice, morons.

      March 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  9. Such ignorant people

    it's a Jewish custom to pray before a long trip. It was obviously Hebrew and they were probably wearing T'fillen. You would think an international airline and the authorities would know international cultures. I find myself laughing at this. Thought it was a joke. This culture existed for thousands of years. People are always afraid of what they don't know. Orthodox Jews, however, are the exact opposite of the terrorists we are trying to catch. The airline culture unfortunately probably targets and profiles the victims of terrorism more so than the terrorists. Congratulations on totally screwing up a threat assessment!

    March 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Rev. Keith R. Wright

      What was the name of the Arab terrorist who assassinated Yitzak Rabin.......?

      March 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • ibiubu111

      ...great Rev. Wright!!!!!!!

      March 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  10. Rev. Keith R. Wright

    Oh, those Pharisees...

    March 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  11. Eye Roll

    Alaska Air: Winning?

    March 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  12. Michael

    a language other than spanish? Could have been english then.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • iamthefredman

      One more reason to stray in the USA.

      March 14, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  13. Darth Vadik, CA

    What is up with people praying in an airplane out loud, dude, God can hear you even if you whisper...

    March 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  14. gayfocker

    Gay said :I'm not a terrorist. Its not like I have a bomb in my bag.

    Airline gurl said: Sir- you can't say bomb on a plane!

    Gay said: I can too- bom ba-bom,bom,bom,bom! Neener!

    Lol- this situation is about as funny as that scene from 'Meet the Parents'

    March 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  15. pditty

    The difference to note is the Jewish men cooperated unlike Muslims.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • bobbybrown

      Muslim are not given the chance to speak, they are taken to a room and interogated for hours.....Remember what happened to Yussef Islam (Cat Stevens)

      March 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • ibiubu111

      pditty – your stupidity is overwhelming, if they were MOZLEMS they would have been chained, handcuffed, hooded and slammed against the wall and interrogated and then they would have co-operated

      March 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  16. Giampaolo

    Freedom of religion is great. So is being mindful and respectful of those around you. Not too difficult to balance the two if you try.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  17. joe kay

    Cud be terrorist muslims dressed up as peace-loving jews to fool ppl.

    We all know how peace loving and friendly jews are. Most peace loving and friendly people on earth

    March 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  18. ARG

    I wonder if the flight staff thought to ask the men what they were doing? They could have explained they were davening (praying). Simple enough...

    March 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  19. cesium

    Perfect example of worlds ignorance on Judaism...how else can people get us wrong...seems to be infinite ways to do this

    March 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • bobbybrown

      Just because they are Jews we should treat them differently than others....

      March 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Justin Observation

      it's not the world's job to know about the rituals of every cult on earth.

      March 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Michelle

      Perfect example of the arrogance of Judaism...how else can they assume every human being on this Earth is aware of their practices and rituals...seems to be infinite ways to be arrogant and presumptuous.

      March 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Joshua Ludd

      Yes, its just damned anti-semitism that we don't know every single ritual of every single sect of judaism by heart. Nice one, guy.. nevermind that its pretty obvious that people mistook them for muslims.

      March 14, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • Lisa

      Am I to understand that Joshua believes it would be wrong for Muslims to pray on a plane, but okay for Jews?

      Anyone should be allowed to pray anywhere. How is a prayer threatening to you? If you don't believe in God/what you consider "their" God, then you have nothing to worry about, right?

      March 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  20. Alina77

    "The men were extremely cooperative" , of course they would, especially after watching Harold and Kumar in Guantanamo Bay.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • skylar

      Since they weren't doing anything illegal and and nothing to hide there is no reason for to not be cooperative.

      March 15, 2011 at 9:43 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.