Thursday, March 17, 2011

[wvns] Jewish prayer spooks Alaska Airlines

Orthodox Jewish prayer ritual spooks Alaska Airlines flight attendants; crew locks down cockpit
BY PHILIP CAULFIELD
Sunday, March 13th 2011
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/03/13/2011-03-13_orthodox_jewish_prayer_ritual_spooks_alaska_airlines_flight_attendants_crew_lock.html


Alaskan Airlines officials said flight attendants and passengers became alarmed and locked down the cockpit after three Orthodox Jewish men began a prayer ritual on a flight from Mexico to Los Angeles

Ratner/AP
The men were using Tefillin, small sets of leather straps and boxes containing verses from the Torah used during morning prayers.

Flight attendants on an Alaska Airlines flight to Los Angeles on Sunday interpreted an elaborate prayer ritual by Orthodox Jewish men onboard as a security threat and locked down the cockpit, airline officials said.

Police, FBI and custom agents swarmed the plane when it landed at Los Angeles International Airport at around 8:30 a.m. and three men were escorted off after it was reported that passengers were acting rowdy and a fight had broken out.

In fact, the disturbance was the farthest thing from a fight. The men were praying.

"We've since learned from law enforcement that the passengers onboard were practicing a traditional Orthodox Jew ritual called Tefillin," Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan told theLos Angeles Daily News.

The ritual involves strapping leather ribbons and small wooden boxes containing verses of the Torah to the body while saying morning prayers.

A flight attendant became spooked when she saw the men wrapping the straps to their foreheads and arms and praying loudly in Hebrew, and she instructed the crew to lock down the cockpit, Egan said.

The FBI questioned the three men – described as Mexican nationals – before releasing them to make connecting flights to other countries, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told the LA Daily News.

They were not charged.

The flight was travelling from from Mexico City. Other passengers were not delayed, Eimiller said.

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