Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alaska Airlines Apologizes For Rousting Three Orthodox Jews Who Created Uproar On Flight 241 With "Tefillin Prayer Ritual" Involving Boxes, Wires, And Black Tape

By now, it is well-known that three Orthodox Jews created an uproar on an Alaska Airlines flight when they dug out boxes with wires sticking out of them and attached them to their arms in a so-called "prayer ritual". The incident took place aboard Flight 241 from Mexico City to Los Angeles; the plane was met upon arrival in Los Angeles by fire crews, foam trucks, FBI agents, Transportation Security Administration personnel and police. Of course, they were eventually let off the hook; had they been Muslims, they'd be in jail right now facing Federal charges of interfering with a flight.

The Anchorage Daily News Indie Traveler blog reveals that Alaska Airlines has apologized to the three Jews, and that they posted a full review of the incident on their Facebook page. Their review actually shows that their caution was entirely justified; read this particular excerpt:

Flight attendants instructed everyone to stay seated with their seatbelts fastened as the aircraft flew through turbulence shortly after takeoff. The three passengers disregarded repeated requests, however, and stood up several times to retrieve objects from their luggage in the overhead bin that the crew had never seen, including small black boxes fastened with what appeared to be black tape. The crew learned after the plane landed that these were tefillin boxes worn during the prayer ritual.

The men prayed aloud together in a language unfamiliar to the crew while wearing what appeared to be black tape and wires strapped to their forearms and foreheads and wires on their chests. Their actions and behavior made some other travelers and the crew uneasy. The three passengers responded, but provided very little explanation, to a flight attendant’s questions about the tefillin boxes and what they were doing.

Wait a minute. These three clowns strapped boxes around themselves, had black tape and WIRES attached to their body, were praying in a foreign language, and they expected nobody to be concerned? HELLO! Remember 9-11? Maybe they should have considered the effect on their fellow passengers before they tried to transform the airliner into their own private synagogue. Do you think a couple of Mormon missionaries would have been allowed to block off a lavatory for 30 minutes to perform baptisms for the dead? Probably not. And do you think a couple of Santeria priests would have been allowed to block off the galley for 30 minutes to sacrifice a chicken to their god? Hell, no!

It's not Alaska Airlines who owes an apology -- it's the three Jews. Yet Alaska Airlines did include an apology statement in their report:

We embrace the cultural and religious diversity of our passengers and employees. We apologize for the experience these three passengers went through after landing in Los Angeles as well as for any inconvenience to our other customers onboard. To help make sure this misunderstanding does not happen again, we plan to incorporate awareness training of Orthodox Jewish religious practices into our ongoing diversity and inclusion efforts. We’ve asked the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for their assistance to help us better serve our Orthodox Jewish customers and employees alike.

Naturally, Jewish supremacists have weighed in -- on the side of the Jews. The Anti-Defamation League said the incident illustrates the need for the better education of airline personnel about rituals involving traditional Jewish prayer items. As an initial step toward educating airline personnel about Jewish religious items, the ADL is working with Chabad-Lubavitch to prepare a flier discussing Tefillin and has offered further educational materials and programs to the airlines. ADL has written to the Chairman and CEO of Alaska Airlines and Alaska Air Group offering additional assistance through its diversity training programs. Aside from that, their criticism of the airline was relatively muted; they didn't accuse Alaska Airlines of anti-Semitism.

Posters on the Flyertalk Forum seem to agree with the ADL and are unable or unwilling to put themselves in the place of the flight crew and understand their legitimate concern. In contrast, there's a much more mixed reaction to the CNN story; on March 15th at 9:50 P.M., Proptop wrote "If a devout Muslim prayed on a plane with little black boxes and tape with what appeared to be wire and ignored repeated requests to stop... could you imagine the consequences? I am a Christian and I can't take a tube of tooth paste in my cary on luggage so why an the hell should the Jewish be able to take little black boxes on board and pray and freak everyone else out!?" One Jewish commenter, Yammo, criticized the three Jews for not briefing the crew in advance, writing "People don't know what Tefillin are, people don't know that we pray. If the passengers don't explain it, how is the crew supposed to know? If would be one thing if this was in New York, however I think it's the passengers' responsibility to inform the crew so there's no alarm".


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