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Jewish prayer ritual mistaken as terror threat

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

A US Airways flight from New York to Louisville, Kentucky landed unexpectedly in Philadelphia this morning after a flight attendant noticed a 17-year old passenger with an unfamiliar device.  The object turned out to be two items used in Jewish prayer.

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Orthodox Jews pray three times a day – morning, noon, and night – even if they’re on a plane.  They wear prayer shawls, head coverings, and two small leather boxes called tefilin that attach to the head and left arm with leather straps.

But to the flight attendant, the roughly half-inch wide leather bands looked like wires – and they were attached to two black boxes on the man’s body.  The flight attendant alerted the pilot, and after neither was able to identify the tefilin, the pilot decided to land at Philly International.

The airport contacted Philadelphia police, who met the plane on the runway, according to Lieutenant Frank Vanore.

Vanore: Within minutes really of responding and the plane being grounded, we were able to determine that there was absolutely no nexus to a threat or terrorism.  We identified the item and what it was and its purpose.

Lieutenant Vanore says the plane was quickly cleared for takeoff, but the teen and his 16 year old sister were put on another flight.

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