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. unoffensive_name_acceptable_to_CNNcensors

    I don't care if you are praying, chanting, mumbling, singing, blasting your ears out with an iPod, holding a screaming baby or flatulating. If you are sitting next to me on the plane, pipe down or I will give you a reason to need to pray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 15, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • Dingo McRib

      I feel you, bro!

      March 15, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  2. wr

    The ignorance of the passengers and crew aboard that plane is matched only by the ignorance on this board.

    March 15, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  3. richard

    DON'T make a scene on airplanes...end of story

    March 15, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  4. shawnee

    you're all a bunch of blahblahblah. the human race is a cancer upon the earth!

    March 15, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  5. Greenspam

    I bet you if a bunch of people start praying in Spanish on a flight originating from Arizona, they would treat this as a terror case and deport these people quickly.

    March 15, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  6. Ahava

    You would think that in the year 2011 most people would know what the Hebrew language sounds like...I find it rediculous the way people were reacting!!! What did they think???? Perhaps these STRANGE ALIEN LOOKING men were putting a curse on the plane in their own special ALIEN language???? Get a grip people!

    March 15, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  7. jmania

    you bickering 5 year olds are hilarious

    March 15, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  8. Terry P

    "Bottom line, land belongs to any group that can conquer it and keep it."

    Yep, just look at what our government did to the Native American people.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  9. Arrested Development

    wait a minute, i thought everyone loved the jews. not so much eh?

    March 15, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • rafael

      Clearly not a Tom Lehrer fan.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  10. Ban Jaun WILLIAMS

    I think its pretty clear what needs to happen in this case; No Fly List+Jaun Williams=peaceful flight.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:38 am |
  11. Tchr89

    It seems to me that a lot of people could use some education on the Jewish religion. A religion which, by the way, doesn't kill people just because they aren't Jewish. A religion which doesn't declare the US to be the Great Satan. A religion which doesn't fly planes into buildings in the US, bomb railways in Europe, and so on.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • So

      What?? They aren't killing anyone? Are you serious? And they have put people in a ghetto like the ones they used to hate?
      Is this what you think is okay? I don't mind them having their tiny country, I just think they should not do bad things to other people. I say that about everyone. This country does crimes against humanity, that country does, too. And all those other ones.
      You are lying to say a middle-eastern country does not murder people. Almost every country I have ever heard of murders people. Oftentimes their own people. But with Israel being a theocratic democracy, the religion is also the politics and non-Jews are killed with ease whether as a nation or as a religion. They claim to be god's own wonderful people, yet act no better or worse than anyone else. But Jews consider themselves a "race", when they are just a religious group. That makes them racist.

      March 15, 2011 at 2:02 am |
  12. deepwater805

    Praying on planes would unsettle me too. Kind of like whenever I land in a country from the former Soviet Union, the passengers always break out in applause. That's a tad unsettling too. I mean, what do they know that I don't?

    March 15, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • rafael

      I don't have religious beliefs but also cannot understand why the activity of prayer in itself is threatening.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  13. Nick from Australia.

    Within the last week I was on a flight from Sydney to LAX and a Muslim got up, walked to the back of plane, where I was sitting, and prayed down on his mat which he put in the floor.

    I didn't alert anyone, neither did anyone else on the plane including the flight attendants.

    People need to pray due to their beliefs. As silly as they seem to us let's just let them do what they need to and leave them be.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  14. SayWhaaa!!

    If they were a couple of Muslim guys calling a prayer these guys would probably be locked up in gitmo.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  15. Rachel

    Oh, gimme a break people- passengers making a scene because some other people were praying in a language they don't understand. If you are that paranoid about flying, then drive yourself, take a cab, ride the bus, take a train or stay home.
    I'll be you people get scared when the lights go out in your own homes.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  16. Mike

    Religion is stupid. And this ritual is especailly stupid on a plane. Please, let's move out of the dark, delusional age and move beyond religion? Seriously.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • Drew

      Beyond it to what?

      March 15, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • bam

      beyond ignorance. beyond believing fairy tales written 2000 years ago when being high on opiates was the in thing.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Drew

      My question was "beyond to what?" What is the vision atheists have for the world?

      March 15, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • rafael

      @Drew: Reason. Evidence based practice. Non-tribalism. Humanism. Reality.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • Drew

      That doesn't sound much more tangible or specific than anything Christian's promote

      March 15, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Jamon Amon

      Maybe they were on an acid / ergot-trip from eating bad rye bread and drinking bad wine.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Guin

      Because it was so enlightened and alert to freak out over said prayer?

      March 15, 2011 at 1:44 am |
    • Chief Ten Bear

      How about moving past religion to a much safer and saner future? One where people are not being nasty about anything?
      One where everyone can find work to do? That would distract the angry young men of the world, I think. If they worked all day they would have one less reason to be angry about anything. They should get some meds. Extremism is not healthy.

      But if you keep these old murderous religions around, you'll never get rid of religion-motivated violence. Violence based on these written value systems for many different reasons.
      You just have to take the time to think about it long enough to see that these ancient written texts were written by humans with less knowledge about science than we have now.

      And what they write about a supposed supernatural being is laughably ridiculous when applying any sort of simple analysis to the bare accounts and declarations that religious texts tend to be......! Yet people use these to order their lives and violent tendencies. Rude and intrusive behavior is threatening behavior. Those Jews should have known better but what can you expect from fundamentalists?

      With the increase in scientific data comes a decrease in uncertainty about how the universe works.
      Science and logic show religion to be utterly delusional.
      Delusional people muttering to themselves will ALWAYS be cause for alarm unless you know of a good reason to not worry.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • Wisdom4u2

      The world has many religions, but only One God!!!

      Without God, Mike, you will remain in darkness!!!

      March 15, 2011 at 2:07 am |
    • Wisdom4u2

      @ Rafael

      WT??? are you writing about??
      Atheist are just to lazy to think, reason and draw a logical conclusion!
      They are FOOLS!
      It takes absolutely nothing to say ‘There is no god!”.

      However, one must be able to think, reason and draw a conclusion to KNOW that there is an Ancient of Days, who was, and is and is to come!!
      You have to think with your mind and believe in your heart that He is who He says He is!
      He’ll show you if you ask Him to!
      If you’re not seeking after Him you’ll never find Him, but it doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist! Duh!!
      No matter the religion, there is only One Real Lord of All!!

      March 15, 2011 at 2:23 am |
  17. WDrad

    A language other than spanish is usually, 90%, good.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  18. Reality

    Some history:

    Israel's formation was approved by the UN in 1948. It should honor the original UN agreement and live within the described borders. Considering the hate generated by passages in the koran and torah, erecting dividing walls between Muslims and Jews should continue.

    And Jerusalem should be made into an international city under the control and protection of the UN.

    March 15, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  19. Reality

    Obviously. the fellows doing the praying were not members of Conservative Judaism:


    New Torah For Modern Minds

    Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument. "

    March 15, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • gina

      God is the same God of yesterday, today and allways. His word doesn't change.

      March 15, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • bam

      if this god is not a human then how does IT have a gender..... it is 2012 get an education for science sakes

      March 15, 2011 at 12:58 am |
    • Pat

      Hahahahaha! That's a good one, Gina! Tell it to the Eastern Orthodox, or the Greek Orthodox, or the Coptics, or the Lutherans, or the Baptists, or the Council(s) of Nicea, or Vatican 1, 2, (with the recent Papal books, are we up to version 2.2 or so now?), or any number of Christianity splinter groups that interpret the "word" of god differently. There are so many different "words" of god that you'd think he was babelling.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • rafael

      No one said they were conservatives. They are clearly orthodox. Conservatives are far more relaxed.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  20. educate yourself

    First of all, if Israel is not the Jews homeland, what is? Jews have inhabited Israel for thousands of years before there was anyone called a Muslim or Palestinian. How could the Jews have possibly stolen the land of Israel. Jews pray towards Jerusalem, Muslims pray away from it. Muslims do not consider the land of Israel holy, Jews do. The argument that somehow Israel should belong to the Muslims is absurd. They have zero connection to Israel. Its just an excuse to be antisemitic and hate Jew

    Think about something. If the Muslims lay down there weapons there will be peace. If Israel lays down its weapons it would be the end of Israel.

    March 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • blah

      Then again, who occupied it before the Jews conquered it? Violently and brutally I might add. Who before them? And before the previous?

      We can go back as far as we want, but heck we will just stop it conveniently at the point that best supports the claim of Israel. Right?

      Bottom line, land belongs to any group that can conquer it and keep it.

      March 15, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Chris R

      If we are to believe the Bible then the Jews conquered the land of Israel from the native inhabitant – which were the ancient people of Palestine. So if we are going by the right of first possession then it belongs to the Palestinian people as much, if not more, than the Jews.

      As for Muslims not considering Jerusalem a holy place maybe you should ask why the Dome of the Rock is located on the Temple Mount. According the Quran Mohammed ascended into heaven through the very same stone that is the location of the Holiest of Holies. In fact, before Muslims prayed towards Mecca they prayed toward Jerusalem.

      It is probably worth remembering that Muslims rightly place themselves in the Judeo-Christian family of faiths. They view the Torah and the New Testament as foundational works. While they reject the divinity of Jesus (which isn't unknown amoungst christians either) they do see Jesus as an incredibly important prophet and as Messiah to the Jewish people.

      March 15, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • DoodleSheep

      Religion is a sickness. If both of them hung up their religions peace would happen.

      March 15, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • I. S.

      The people on the plane were not scared of the Orthodox Jews who were praying. The people on the plane never new they were Orthodox Jews. With their black robes, long beards and little yarmulke on their heads, they looked just like those "fanatic" Muslims we see every day on CNN, and Fox, and NBC, ABC, and BBC, and all the other channels. People on the plane were not afraid of the Orthodox Jews. They were afraid of the Orthodox Muslims they have been trained day in and day out by our media, and our politicians to be scared of. You should know that years ago in the 1980s there was a hit by an Israeli plane on a US navy boat where many marines died. Do you think there is a chance Mr. King will open an inquiry on that event ever? I don't think he will.

      March 15, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Steve

      Then again, America is the homeland of the Iroquois, Apache, Comanche, etc. It's ours now because we took it by force and because they wouldn't share it. Ooops....you won't share either, will you?

      March 15, 2011 at 12:53 am |
    • SLTsherey

      True that religion/god is a sickness*, DoodleSheep, but I do have to admit visualizing the scene was kinda funny... but maybe that comes from having been brought up in the Jewish religion before awareness finally kicked in.
      (*or at the very least a self-delusion due to indoctrination during one's most susceptible childhood years)

      March 15, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • toscan lahy

      Incorrect historical timeline. Before Europeans and Americans decided to create a new country with new boundaries where Palestinians already lived, things were fairly peaceful. Isreal was not populated by middle eastern jews for the most part but by arabs. Your timeline is typical of someone trying to rearrange history.

      March 15, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • bam

      "If we are to believe the Bible" WHICH bible. and why would ANY modern day human being ebelive in some lame fairy tales written 2000 years ago when 95% of mankind was IGNORANT of the world around them....

      March 15, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Lone

      Doodle, would you like to point out all the so-called peace of the secular world? Religion is not a sickness, but it can be used to further the goals of the sick just as a bomb, a social socio-political philosophy, or the media can.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • Nawar

      The "educated information" you provide is completely false. Jews did NOT inhabit the land of Palestine for thousands of years before Muslims as you claim. The people of Palestine were not Jews. Furthermore, when Muslims conquered Jerusalem, it was from Chritians that they took it and it had no Jews in it as Christians had completely expelled them from the city. It was during Muslim rule that Jews were allowed back in and it was Muslims who insisted on including that condition in the treaty that allowed them to enter Jerusalem without a fight.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • Joo Z

      They were reptilians, protected by the government.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:17 am |
    • Ronnie

      Give me a break ! Israel is a terrorist state and should be put on the terrorist watch list.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • Wisdom4u2

      @ bam
      Sounds like you're the ignorant one, you know nothing about what the Bible states!!!
      Grow a brain and get educated!

      March 15, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Laura

      Whether it be religion or politics or what color shirt the other person is wearing, human nature dictates that someone somewhere somehow some time will eventually find a reason to pick a fight. Saying that religion is the root of all evil is as wrong as saying anything else is. I might wear something tomorrow that so infuriates another person that they will declare war on me and I'll be killed tomorrow evening for it. It is a silly concept, but it's one that plays out each day, everywhere. Religion has been the excuse for many, many terrible massacres and wars throughout history, but without it, we might not have some of the best parts of humanity, such as charities. I don't think religion is the problem. I think misinterpretation is the problem. Unfortunately, that's never going to change. As long as there are people who are right about something, there will always be people who are wrong about the same thing. Tolerance is key.

      March 15, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • Muslim man

      Where did you get this information? Muslims used to pray towards Jerusalem before Mecca.And also it does not matter if Jews lived in Palestine for last millions of years. What it matters the majority of the people who resides now: the
      Palestinians. Want to see an evidence of my point: see the United States of America.

      U.S. used to belong to Native Americans for last 100 thousands of years, but now the case is different. Muslims used to OWN what it was known Andalus (now Spain and Purtugal) untill Christians slaughter them in year 1099.

      You said, there will be peace if Muslims put down their weapons, the history tells us again Muslims were the most mercyful rulers. Books were written by Christian authors admitted that fact. Whereas Israelis and Christians killed everyone including children, women, and elders. Also this is in books written by your people. Did you read today?

      Please read

      March 15, 2011 at 1:41 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.