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. ryan

    DEAR LIBERALS, there is a clear difference between racism and being careful. You know why they dont call the fbi when english speaking christians pray?
    #1 we know what they are saying
    #2 when was the last time an american christian took down a plane ?
    #3 There is a difference between rights and privileges.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Magic


      I agree.

      If it is necessary to do something unusual in public - say, giving yourself a necessary insulin injection - a simple explanation to those around you who might be distressed by it, is the right (and polite) thing to do.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • hgmma

      Na, they don't take down planes, they just kill doctors who perform abortions... (and apparently breed ignorance)!

      March 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • ballarat99

      hgmma is right. They express their intolerance in different ways. They are no less dangerous, and probably more so. Many fewer folks die at the hands of terrorists than at christian extremists.

      March 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  2. Spijder

    The thing that really jumps out at me about this is the oblivious assumption of those praying that no one aboard might not be 'in the know'. Even if one's religion requires prayer at rigidly specific intervals or times or with items that not everyone may be familiar with, where do those religious procedures say that the praying persons aren't allowed to let the people around them know what it is that they are doing? Or is it also disallowed to be considerate inside enclosed spaces among random strangers who may or may not have even heard of, or just not recognized on sight, one's particular religious practices? Even a small aside to a flight attendant to let them know of the requirement and the lack of danger associated with it would have at least been the polite thing to do, even if the results were the same.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • PENNY

      Spijder, you couldn't be more right. The whole problem could have been averted had someone mentioned to any crew member what was about to transpire. Either these Orthodox gents were so intent on keeping to schedule that they simply were not considering the idea that not everyone is familiar with philacteries and such, or they didn't think their praying would frighten anyone to the degree it did. I'm sure they did not mean to cause such a scene over their normal everyday praying. Perhaps a lesson can be learned here about being considerate of our neighbors, especially on planes. Anymore, people who do not travel regularly get on planes almost certain they won't live to see their destinations.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  3. Ari

    orthodox jews are no different to fantatical muslims, christians or hindus – ridiculous pointless rituals and extremism. (these are the same people setting up camps on the illegally occupied pallestinian territories)

    March 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • ballarat99

      Thanks. Good point. They are essentially extremists.

      March 14, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  4. fingjews

    shalom my ass

    March 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  5. fingjews

    jesus likes saucy balls

    March 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  6. kedir

    It would be totallly different story if they were muslims.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  7. fingjews

    jesus christ! stop doing stupid sh!t on planes, like praying out loud. f'ing morons!

    March 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  8. Gail

    Religion is the basis of all evil. To pray out loud in a space shared by other people is inconsiderate, rude, annoying, selfish, and amounts to a personal attack on everyone who has to witness it. Without religion, in which the believers are deluded into thinking they are chosen by their God and everyone else is a piece of s***, the world would be free of wars and hatred.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Drew

      @ Gail

      Hitler and Stalin alone prove that you are wrong

      March 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Bryce

      @Drew: Well said! There have actually been very few wars about religion. Although some may invoke religion, most every war comes down to either greed or mistrust (or occassionally to stop someone from killing innocent people0. Even the Crusades were really about mistrust of Muslims and taking over a wealthy city (Jerusalem).

      March 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • ballarat99


      March 14, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  9. brick tamlin

    I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  10. JonathanL

    I see Jews praying in public all over the place. It can be a little annoying, but maybe they think it makes them seem religious. It must be an old tradition though because allegedly Jesus made a comment about praying on street corners: " "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" . Personally I don't believe praying does anything but for the pray-er. I don't pray because I truly feel God is a mythical character invented by a few wild imaginations and the wonderful myth has been perpetuated for 1000s of years by dupes. Action is much more effective than prayer. In fact it has been proven that sick people die faster when they find out they are being prayed for, so if I get sick, please don't pray for me, I like living.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Gavi

      The point is not to be seen by others. Rather, there are strict guidelines for when the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers must be recited. I'll bet you that these restrictions prompted these orthodox Jews to pray at some point on the flight. Not just a vain gesture to seem "religious." As for your scripture references, they are not from the Jewish Bible, or Old Testament. According to Jewish history, Jesus was an outcast, no the son of God. I doubt his words would influence any Jews, let alone orthodox ones.
      -Speak little of what you are ignorant

      March 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  11. Kim

    ..? Seriously? People are freaking out about prayers now? I can't imagine what happens when a baby cries onboard a plane..how ridiculous.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • JonathanL

      Well if the baby cries out "Allah Ahkbar", panic. That's Muslim for 'we are going to kill you'.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  12. ProudJew

    Please let the creator's children pray.....They need him....We need him....For crying out loud...Literally... Nobody in this world is a stranger to the Jewish culture...Especially Flight crews. I do not want to cite the real reason behind this mayhem over an innocent prayer....I'll let you all do the thinking, and be true to yourselves. The creator's discontent with the human race is being manifested everywhere in the world....We do not have anybody we can lean on for help, but our creator......Please dont ruin that. Shalom

    March 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • purplepuppy



      March 14, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  13. Tam

    I was once boarding a plane in Europe, and a whole big group of Hassidic Jews was also traveling. As we were ready to board, they got into this big concentric circle, and I heard this sort of hum that got louder and louder. For a while, the rest of us did not know where it was coming from. It was their voices in some prayer. Was scary until we figured out what it was.

    March 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  14. Believer

    Religion is relationship and relationship is a personal experience (subjective and highly emotional). A particular and vital form of relationship in dependence on a supernatural Being. In a such dependency, faith/trust brings peace (shalom/harmony) and prosperity to the human being. Without such relation we are indepent beings relaying in our "strengths" and "wisdom" and probably without Hope.

    March 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  15. Muneef

    They could have prayed with out alarming other passengers;
    Al-Isra sura 17:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Say (unto mankind): Cry unto Allah, or cry unto the Beneficent, unto whichsoever ye cry (it is the same). His are the most beautiful names. And thou (Muhammad), be not loud-voiced in thy worship nor yet silent therein, but follow a way between. (110) And say: Praise be to Allah, Who hath not taken unto Himself a son, and Who hath no partner in the Sovereignty, nor hath He any protecting friend through dependence. And magnify Him with all magnificence. (111).

    March 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  16. alf

    If those flying on the planes attacked on 9/11 had taken precautions against those reciting prayer or acting in odd behavior would we be having the same conversation today? Think about it!!!

    March 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Tess

      Why would you take precautions against someone saying a prayer. My grandmother does it every time we get on a plane or take a long trip in the car.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  17. Muneef

    Very funny one made me laugh loud,may God forgive and have mercy on us all;
    Right. The irony is that there's a conference in the U.S. on the radicalization of U.S. Muslims for fear of more terrorist attacks but they fail to see that the Abrahamic god is the real terrorist.
    March 14, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |

    Kindly read my comments;
    Does not these verses that will follow speak of the Ancient Falling Systems and the Recent Past and Present Falling Systems? It warns and remind all of the future that if you fail you fall...and those blows come to believers and unbelievers on turns..it tests believers and destroys disbelievers....How much of that happens through wars and conflicts....How much of that through Natural Disasters....Aren't we seeing that all? Isn't it telling us some thing is wrong of our own wrong doing and disbelief....? Man can reverse ill-faith by reversing intentions in to right doings in deeds,actions and spiritual worship,prayers in peace with soul,pay poor due and charity as a belief and a spiritual meditation for soul to have mercy on earth,afterlife,resurrection and judgment day.....?!? What we got to lose,since we all ride the same as ship in the middle of this universe as a ship in the ocean..and every body wants it his way such a ship will never set to sail but to crash and drawn with the whole lot...!?      

    Al-E-Imran sura 03:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Systems have passed away before you. Do but travel in the land and see the nature of the consequence for those who did deny (the messengers). (137) This is a declaration for mankind, a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil) (138) Faint not nor grieve, for ye will overcome them if ye are (indeed) believers. (139) If ye have received a blow, the (disbelieving) people have received a blow the like thereof. These are (only) the vicissitudes which We cause to follow one another for mankind, to the end that Allah may know those who believe and may choose witnesses from among you; and Allah loveth not wrong-doers. (140) And that Allah may prove those who believe, and may blight the disbelievers. (141).

    March 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Katt

    Obviously this whole "incident" was caused by religion. If people weren't so paranoid about people from other religions blowing them up we wouldn't have to worry at all when flying, but since most of the world has it in their head that their god is better than everyone elses and they are willing to kill each other over it people will die and they'll be paranoid about the person behind them praying to their imaginary friend...

    "Once you understand why you reject all other gods, you'll realize why I reject yours as well"

    March 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Dave

      You're welcome to reject anything you'd like while you're alive. Isn't choice wonderfull?

      March 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • PENNY

      The really silly part of all this is the fact that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all recognize the same God. Judaism does not recognize Jesus as anyone of any importance. Christianity sees Jesus as the Son of God. Islam recognizes Jesus as merely another prophet, like Abraham, and sees Mohammad as the last prophet. That is basically the only real differences in the religions themselves, but the adherents of all 3 of these religions pray to the same God, by whatever name they may call Him. Now, if you want to discuss customs, culture, and societies, that's a whole other subject.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Bryce

      @penny: well said!

      March 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  19. Che-3

    Here we go! Bunch of HYPOCRITE Gentiles, showing OFF and seeking attention like 6-yr. girls.
    They want us to belief that they are Holy or look Holy form the outside like the Pharisees YET; looked UNHOLY in the TRUE INSIDE.

    Jesus SAID: “The Lord is a SPIRIT and those that worship HIM must worship HIM in spirit.” Which part of this simple text that these HYPOCRITE Jews or Gentiles don’t they understand?

    Matthew 6:5-18 States this CLEARLY as follows:-
    Matt. 6 – 5: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."
    Matt. 6 – 6: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
    Matt. 6 – 7: And when yee pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
    Matt. 6 – 8: Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
    “The Lord is a SPIRIT and those that worship HIM must worship HIM in spirit.”
    Matt. 6 – 9: Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
    Thy kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ………………….blah, blah, blah etc.

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

      Jesus is not, has never been, and never will be the king of Jews. Jesus is not a standard for Jews.

      March 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • AC

      Really, Che-3? The article clearly states that they are Orthodox Jews. As in Jewish. As in strictly OLD Testament. Yet you quote the book of Matthew and wonder why they don't live according to its teachings. Unbelievable.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • AC

      You also clearly don't know the actual meaning of the word "Gentile". I suggest you look it up.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • David

      I lost interest the moment all your non-sensical religious blabber started...

      March 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Dan

      wow, you're an idiot.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Bryce

      You do realize that bringing up the NEW TESTAMENT does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to prove your point. These are Jews, and they have every right to pray aloud and not be embarrassed by their faith. People need to learn to be more tolerant of other cultures and not judge people by their own ethics.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • ballarat99


      March 14, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  20. Mike

    What idiots! They should have known that behavior like that would cause alarm.

    March 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Greg

      So they should eschew their own religion because other people are intolerant? Even I, as an atheist, believe that is completely wrong. People need to be more aware of the beliefs of others.

      March 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Steve

      All public displays of all religious faith should be banned, period. Take your icons, idols, jewelry, mantras and the rest of your propaganda to your church or mosque or whatever and keep it there where it belongs. Religion is a hate crime and shouldn't be tolerated in public.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Camkid

      Mike; you can't tell me that people wouldn't know the difference between putting on leather straps on their arm and forehead and praying and causing trouble on a flight?!

      March 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Dave

      Steve.... don't understand how you arrived at calling religion a "hate" crime but can only surmise that you are an angry individual because you lack faith and lack the faculties thereof. You should really re-examine / revisit your own perspectives on life in general.

      You have the choice to not believe in any faith and it's your perogative , but, reaching as far to classify someones faith as a hate crime incredibly undermines your own integrity relative to tolerance.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Ben

      Steve – You probably are not aware that your name, Steve is very religious. You should drop that name and go by something like "He Goat' or some other object. Steven is a great saint!

      March 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      @Ben....I like your thinking. Nice reference to goats and sheep. 🙂

      March 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Dave

      Mike.... right, and they also wanted to make a scene with the FBI & airport police showing up upon landing.

      I'll bet you were the smartest in your family........

      March 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Arglebargle

      @Mike – gotta disagree with you. The idiots are the ignorant fools that don't educate themselves beyond their tiny little world. The believe everything the fear mongers on the TV and radio serve up to them. They deserve to be frightened.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
    • David123

      Insane that they people were scared of praying!

      March 14, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • fingjews

      greg the athiest is a moron

      March 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • DAISHI

      @Steve Do you value the right to freedom of expression?

      March 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • ballarat99

      They can have whatever religion they want. I think we all know that doing this on an airplane is going to set off alarms. It is fine that they are religious. Just doing in the air is stupid. I hope if a bunch of christian nuts were doing this they would be set upon as well. I am sure anyone that is arabic/islamic would have gotten this treatment.

      Frankly, this is great and shows that we are serious about making flying safe.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
    • wat

      -Greg – So are you saying that I should be ashamed of not wasting decades of my life learning all there is to know about religions I consider to be utter nonsense in the first place?
      Are you saying that I need to learn about every religious sect within each religion and I need to memorize every tiny nuance and "tradition" of these thousands of different forms of religious expression?

      Are you serious?
      If you are, then I seriously recommend re-evaluating what criteria you used to come up with that nonsensical viewpoint.

      March 14, 2011 at 10:57 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.