Tefillin Not Terror: FBI Grounds LA Flight Over Hebrew Prayers
Flight attendants on an American Airlines flight inbound from Mexico City to Los Angeles called police to meet the aircraft because of a perceived security threat when three men on board conducted "an unusual prayer ritual that alarmed them," an airlines official said Sunday, reports NBC Local. Pilots locked down the flight deck and followed standard security procedures, reports NBC Local, and "a full assignment of fire trucks met Alaska Airlines flight 241 as it arrived at LAX at 8:30 a.m. Three men were escorted off the plane by police, questioned by the FBI and then released to make connecting flights to other countries, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller."
The orthodox Jewish prayer ritual, called Tefillin, involves small black boxes containing parchment scrolls inscribed with Torah verses that are attached to leather straps and worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. One is placed on the upper arm and the straps are wrapped around the arm, hand and fingers; the other is placed above the forehead, and the strap go around the head and over the shoulders.