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be careful what you pray for

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jan 21, 2010

A teenage boy, an Orthodox Jew, threw a flight crew into panic when he began putting on his tefillin to pray. (H/t Father Z)

Prayer is still allowed on airplanes, but if you are paranoid enough, and have never seen an Orthodox Jew at prayer before, you might—if you squint really hard—decide that the tefillin looks a bit like a suicide vest. Apparently the whole flight crew managed that feat. The flight was quickly diverted; the pilot prepared for an emergency landing.

Fortunately the young Jewish lad was able to convince flight attendants that he was only preparing to pray, that the tiny boxes of the tefillin contain only citations from Scripture, and that Bible verses don’t ordinarily explode. So did everybody calm down? Not quite.

The teen explained the ritual after being questioned by crew members, but the captain decided to land in Philadelphia anyway, authorities said.

You can’t be too careful. It's only a matter of time before another equally astute flight crew notices that rosary beads look a little bit like motorcycle drive chains, which are notoriously used by Hell's Angels as weapons in gang fights. So that little old lady in seat 21B, who's fingering her beads, might be a deadly terrorist. See? She looks nervous, too! 

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  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 26, 2010 11:39 PM ET USA

    I cannot believe that a flight crew flying routinely out of New York had never encountered a person praying with phylacteries, or that there were no passengers who could vouch that Caleb Leibowitz was harmless.

  • Posted by: Ken_H - Jan. 21, 2010 10:09 PM ET USA

    The sarcasm a stretch? I don't think so - look at where we are going!

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 21, 2010 8:29 PM ET USA

    By the way, I've just read the full story and can't help adding the remark that if he'd been a Muslim and perhaps taken off his shoes and unrolled a rug in the aisle and the flight crew had reacted this way, there would have been hell to pay. Prejudice. Insensitivity. Anti-Mohammadenism!

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 21, 2010 8:25 PM ET USA

    May one politely differ with kman? It's at least a three-bagger. Maybe with a man on second.

  • Posted by: molly - Jan. 21, 2010 8:09 PM ET USA

    I find the response to be perfectly understandable. This is what the Muslim terrorist world has driven us too. And yet the insane refusal to admit that Muslims have driven us to this kind of response only makes things worse. So as a 70 year old grandmother I will submit to body search. Point the finger, if you must, where it really belongs.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jan. 21, 2010 7:38 PM ET USA

    I hate to drive, but now I fear flying even more. So I guess I'll just stay home.

  • Posted by: Cornelius - Jan. 21, 2010 4:58 PM ET USA

    Hmmm. I've prayed on planes before, with rosary beads and/or breviary, and garnered nary a glance. Are those days numbered?

  • Posted by: kman - Jan. 21, 2010 4:45 PM ET USA

    Swing and a miss...your sarcasm is a stretch on this one.

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