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. WhoLou

    What is the difference between yelling Fire in a crowded building and praying on a crowded airplane. Both are acts of terror.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Drew

      Well obviously its a difference of intent. Something can't be an act of terror unless it is intended to cause terror

      March 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • WhoLou

      Oh, I get it, Drew. You didn't mean to get the girl pregnant or actually kill the guy when you shot him. The perception of the "receive" is of no consequence. Sounds like you just follow orders, including shoving the carts into the oven.

      March 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Drew

      @ WhoLou

      All I'm suggesting is that if someone believed there was a fire, it wouldn't be an act of terror to yell fire in a theater. Similarly, we can't accuse these men of being terrorists if they didn't mean to incite panic

      March 14, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  2. Vivian Watson

    How odd – not one of the staff – world travlers that they are- couldn't identify Hebrew when it's spoken?

    March 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • frewt

      Those Rabbi Terrorists are all Inbred men, tax cheater criminals, deport them to Palestine.

      March 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  3. Alaska?

    Why is Alaskan Airlines running flights from Mexico City to anywhere but Alaska? Anyway.. Jews can easily be mistaken for Muslims, BUT even if it were a Muslim praying, I think Americans can take a deep breath, count to ten, then ask them politely to describe what happened. Jews (especially orthodox) would be more than happy to explain their prayers to anybody. They aren't evangelical, so they won't press you to pray with them. It's apparent by their actions afterward that they were peaceful and cooperative.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • yokolee

      And how am i to know those were 'peaceful' Jews praying?

      March 14, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Drew

      Well yokolee, when was the last time a jew blew up a commercial airplane?

      March 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  4. Giampaolo

    This CNN forum, and the vitriol it has induced, is an example of precisely why a civilized society keeps religion out of public forums. (and for the record, airplanes are clearly an especially bad forum in which to inject one's religion)...

    March 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  5. Liberty Queen

    They want to pray, fine, just do it in silence. They do not have the right to disturb other passengers by yelling out their prayers and they certainly do not have the right to put an entire flight at risk.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • yokolee

      Please don't add any disturbance on a plane, bad enough i have to fly

      March 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Jane

      Have you ever actually SEEN a jew pray? They dont yell!

      March 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  6. Richard Alva

    Dear God, have mercy on us. Please forgive those who hate. Empower those who help. Rid us of our pride and heal us.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  7. Andy

    Wow, really? How about a little EDUCATION. Also, uhhhmm, the people would not have been let on the plane with anything dangerous to other passengers. Sounds like a bunch of hyped up idiots jumping to irrational conclusion.

    – A

    March 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  8. gayfocker

    Freedom of religion is does not mean do what you want , when, and to whom. It means that the government won't force a person's belief. This has NADA to do with the outburst on that plane. They should be jailed for scaring the customers! Then they can pray "freely" to a crowd that probably needs it! Throw the book at 'em all!

    March 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • kutie

      outburst? surely you have never seen them pray.
      just google it. or youtube it whatever.
      get educated sir.

      March 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • yokolee

      Agree, keep your prayers private, who needs those three lunatics next to you on a plane, i sure don't

      March 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  9. JC

    I cannot believe that CNN would let these stupid ass people leave there stupid comment.
    But then what do you expect from CNN and this writers.
    What ashame.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  10. Mari

    Ignorance....cleeeeearly they must have been terrorist!!!!!

    March 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  11. Kimber

    Despite the fact that someone above called all of us who would have not known what these gentlemen were doing ignorant-I an educated, non-practicing Catholic, would not have had a clue. In this world today, I don't care who you are, you need to use a little common sense......and considering what happened on 9/11, in the name of a religion, people are going to be hyper-sensitive. AND, I personally don't want to see anyone's religious practices-I don't understand the need to "show it" to everyone-do you really think God cares?! What are you trying to prove, and to whom.......?

    March 14, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  12. Oh my

    Of course they would be afraid because it is the Jews flying planes into buildings and carrying bombs on board – wait a minute, no I'm sorry, that would be the Muslims flying planes into buildings and trying to blow up a plane. Mexicans can't tell a Muslim from a Jew – that makes me feel really safe about our border with Mexico.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • frewt

      muslims and jews are both the same..terrorists

      March 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  13. jaintn

    Oy vay! Sorry, but I think the article is kind of funny. Imagine how surprised those men were to find out what a fuss ensued because of their praying. At any rate, you people that are using this as an opportunity to insult whatever religion annoys/frightens you, and worse than that, engaging in a fight on this board, should really think about getting the sticks you have stuck up your rear ends removed. What a bunch of humorless, uptight nitwits. Shalom!!

    March 14, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • yokolee

      wonder if y'all say the same thing if those prayers were meant to Allah....hypocrite!

      March 14, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  14. Tom R

    What I find disturbing about this besides the overall ignorance of those commenting on it is that they continued to fly to their destination without any further action than alerting law enforcment on the ground. What if they were terrorists? What if they did have bombs? They would likely have blown up the plane as soon as they got over LA. There probably wasnt much they could have done if they did have bombs but they should at least talked to the 3 men. I find myself wondering if there was an air marshal on board.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  15. Child of a Lesser God

    This a incident is no one's fault. The men should have notified the crew of their intentions prior to the prayers, but they meant no harm. The crew did not over react, however, because any threat to calm on a jet liner must be addressed. Consider the fact that there might be people on the flight that already have a fear of flying or of terrorist attacks. Any misunderstood event could trigger panic.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • yokolee

      A payer to me is not a public event , nor for others to see or listen, there is a time and a place to talk or pray to God, He is not deft he can hear ya, you don't have to show your devotion to me just to God

      March 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Howfung

      I agree. In the context of airtravel today, passengers should just stay seated and shut up! These passengers were wrong and should respect the feelings of others rather than putting on a show and demonstrating how "devote" they think they are!

      March 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  16. Giampaolo

    Freedom of religion is great. So is being mindful and respectful of the people around you. It's not hard to balance the two if you try.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • AlexSaied

      Why can people sing on a plane and thats no problem, but when people pray, it's a problem. Maybe we have the problem.

      March 14, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • wiserbyday

      I agree 100 and 1 %

      March 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • wiserbyday

      I agree 100 & 1 %

      March 14, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • EW

      The way they pray as well as some others can be very annoying. It is far different from people chatting. There is no reason that prayers cannot be said to yourself. I sit on the bus and say the rosary but do not say it out loud.

      March 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • yokolee

      Sure wait till the next time the hare krishna have to fly...

      March 14, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  17. AlexSaied

    If you can talk out loud, then you can pray out loud, simple as that, it's called freedom.

    March 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • EW

      It's called annoying!!!

      March 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  18. bambam

    OMG is this the end of time

    March 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  19. Carlos120

    Terrorists-1 , Common Sense -0

    March 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  20. itsasecret121

    The men were extremely cooperative... no yelling and threatening litigation, no press conferences about their mistreatment... no they understood and went about their lives even though they were inconvenienced for awhile. Boy there are plenty of people who could learn a thing or two from them.

    Makes me wonder what the ones who complain and sue are really up to.

    March 14, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Yeah, it would be better if everyone just went along with whatever injustice they suffer without raising a fuss.

      March 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • frewt

      These Orthodoxs Jews are all inbred and are radical Zionist Terrorists that support Israels occupation of Palestine.

      March 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Dean

      They could use a lesson in common sense, but religion seems to destroy that part of the mind. What a bone – headed ritual to be doing on a commercial flight. Or I suppose all the other passengers are expected to know all the rituals off all religions so that they can differentiate the dangerous ritual from the mere stupid? Religion is a poison to civilized society, and we need to stop kissing people's butts constantly when they insist on shoving it in our faces at inappropriate times like these guys did on this flight. They couldn't talk to their magic invisible friend before or after the flight? Or would that cause the plane to crash?

      March 14, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • dd214

      Obviously, only those of you with at least one neural synapse understood the necessity of this action. Those of you who say this was racial injustice, you really should go try to board a moving train to get your defective genes out of circulation before you bring more stupid morons into this world. 1-800-WAH-BABY. If this had happened to a Christian, you would be clammering for their arrest because your misconceived notion of congress making no law regarding the establishment of religion. Thank God it was not any of those Moo-Ham-add worshipers, they may have blown up the plane, you know 9/11.
      Notice how they are not coming out of the woodwork to support other religious beliefs when they get "the man" on them. Hmmm I guess that is becuase they are the INFIDEL!!!!!

      March 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • yokolee

      pray in private and God who's not deft will answered accordingly, please, please

      March 14, 2011 at 8:40 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.