Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Tefillin Bomber

Many blogs and news sources have discussed the story about the plane that was diverted when a young man davened with Tefilin on flight.

If you haven’t heard the details, what basically happened was that 17 year old Calev Liebowitz bordered a 7:30 flight from New York to Kentuky with his sister. During the flight he davened with Tefillin. A flight attendant asked him what they were and he politely explained that they were Jewish religious prayer items.

The flight attendant who had never encountered Tefillin before told the pilot that there was a passenger with an object strapped to his head and praying. The pilot decided to be extra cautious and landed the plane in the nearest airport where Calev and his sister were briefly detained and questioned before establishing that it was a simple misunderstanding and they were released and put on the next flight to Kentuky.

Grunting has an interesting interview with Calev and his sister Dalia.

What was heartening about this story is that as far as I can tell, no one did anything wrong.

Calev davened on the plane but was polite and explained what he was doing when questioned.

The flight crew were understandably cautious, given recent events by religious extremists to blow up planes.

The ground crew quickly ascertained that this was a mis-understanding and released Calev and Dalia quickly without pressing charges (not sure whether they also apologised).

(This is in contrast to the Chasid flying out of Montreal last year who didn’t speak French or English, but decided to daven Mincha as the flight was preparing for take-off, he was quite correctly removed from the flight)

Many people have come out with guidelines on Davening on a plane, in particular I’d recommend Gil Student’s post on Praying on an Airplane, but the general guidelines are clear:

  • If at all possible, daven before or after the flight.
  • If appropriate, inform the cabin crew that you are going to pray, especially if it is on a route which probably does not regularly have religious Jews.
    The flight crew may ask you to wait as they are about to give out meals or prepare for landing etc, follow their instructions.
  • Make sure that you do not disturb others, do not organize a minyan or obstruct the food cart or other passengers.
  • Daven in your seat, or if there is an available space, ask the cabin crew if it would be OK to pray there.
  • Most important, be friendly and polite, remember that other passengers or crew have probably never seen a Jew pray before and may be curious or concerned, especially in light of recent (non-Jewish) radicals who have carried out attacks in the name of religion.

An interesting side-note to the story is that with all the publicity many people have had a least a basic education on Tefillin, and there has been at least one individual who decided to put on Tefillin for the first time as a response to the story.

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