Have you heard about Alaska Flight 241 from Mexico City to Los Angeles? When it landed in L.A., the flight was met with a full barrage of police, firetrucks, FBI agents and TSA officials. Why? Because some members of staff freaked out after spotting three oddly-dressed men speaking a foreign language and messing around with little black boxes with cables trailing out of them.
Turns out the men were Orthodox Jewish passengers performing "tefillin" - a ritual which involves praying out loud in Hebrew while simultaneously tying black wooden boxes to one's forehead and arms with black leather straps.
Authorities cleared up the "misunderstanding" so quickly that the men were able to make their scheduled connecting flights, no problem. And yet, regardless of the fact that nothing fucking happened to these guys, in an editorial for the Huffington Post, rabbi Brad Hirschfield expresses dismay that the three were "hassled", and says that "ignorance" of tefillin among airport security personnel is "not acceptable". Hirschfield did concede, however, that anti-Semitism "probably" wasn't a factor in this case.
This does beg the question: In this day and age, when people traveling by air are routinely forced to take off their shoes, throw away their shampoo, drink their own breast milk, renounce Islam and convert to Christianity before being allowed to board a flight, does it not stand to reason that being seated next to some bearded, chanting religious whacko all strapped up in black leather and weird wooden boxes - with nobody from the flight crew daring to say "boo" about it - might possibly spark a certain degree of resentment?
And another thing: If a certain demographic is given a pass to perform this particular type of ritual mid-flight, then what's to stop some enterprising Jihadis from growing out their peyos, donning spodik and black bekishe, filling their tefillin with SemTex and pulling a September 11 copycat attack under cover of "political correctness"?
Is it me? Is it really too much to ask of our religious brothers and sisters that they hold their horses for a few measly hours and wait until they're on terra firma before initiating conversations with their imaginary friends? Or is the fact that we're even entertaining a debate about the appropriateness of this kind of behavior on a commercial flight just plain retarded?
Comments are more than welcome, as always!