Ridiculous – Plane Diverted over Praying Jew

By | January 21, 2010
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This is not the first time this has happened, and that is sad. Today, a US Airways regional flight, flight 3079 operated by Chautaqua Airlines, from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Louisville, Kentucky was diverted to Philadelphia over a religious issue.

A seventeen year old teen caused the diversion over his use of tefillin. Tefillin are used as part of Jewish morning prayers, and consisting of small boxes, about the size of alphabet blocks. These boxes are attached to leather straps. One is attached to the head, the other to the arm.

Apparently, the leather straps were mistaken for wires, and the whole devices mistaken for a dangerous item. The Flight Attendant became concerned and alerted the pilot. Republic, who owns Chautauqua, issued a statement that the crew attempted to discuss the issue, but did not receive a clear answer, and diverted. An examination of the item should have avoided that, as pictured, they look nothing like a bomb or even an electronic device.

The TSA reported that the teen was “disruptive.” Other reports indicate he was “praying loudly.” We are hoping to hear more from someone who was onboard. All reports agree that the teen explained the significance of the items to authorities on arrival.

The last time we reported an incident with a Jew praying, there were mitigating circumstances, although even then we were critical of it. The man did not speak English or French and could not communicate his intentions. This time, the teen was able to communicate after he and his sixteen year old sister were removed from the plane to the satisfaction of the authorities in Philadelphia. We hope the regional carrier, US Airways, and the TSA issue an apology and take steps to prevent similar incidents.

As one blogger put it, “What’s Next? Dreidels of Mass Destruction?” Will the flight crews and TSA screeners go after any religious paraphernalia? How about Rosary Beads? They could be used as a weapon, couldn’t they?

This, on the face of it, seems to be the most ridiculous thing we’ve heard in a while. But we may not get a clear answer. The airline directed questions about the incident to the TSA, and the TSA directed questions to the airline. But we know what the real problem here. It is what the media has told us to believe post 9/11… “Religious People are Scary.” And with all the fear we are told we should have, the last thing we need to do in the sky is pray…right?