Jewish Prayer Ritual Prompts Flight Diversion

An Orthodox Jewish teen apparently preparing to pray prompted authorities to divert a Louisville, Kentucky-bound US Airways Express plane on Thursday.

The flight had taken off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the FBI said, at around 8:30 a.m. The 17-year-old was wearing something on his head that included leather pieces. “Someone on the plane construed it as some kind of device,” said officer Christine O’Brien. (Reuters) The teen explained the purpose of the tefillin, a set of small black boxes attached to leather straps and containing biblical passages. One box is strapped to the arm, the other is placed on the head. Orthodox Jewish men do this ritual while they do their morning prayers each weekday.

Even with the explanation, the pilot decided to land the plane in Philadelphia. The Transportation Security Administration said it was notified of what it called a disruptive passenger, and the plane landed without incident at Philadelphia International Airport twenty minutes later. Passengers and crew were escorted off the plane.

TSA said law enforcement officials met the flight, interviewed the passenger and did a security sweep of the plane without finding anything of concern. The teen was very co-operative with law enforcement.

Since the attempted bombing on Christmas Day in Detroit, US airplanes have been on high security and alert. Flights have experienced many false alarms such as Thursday’s, all of which have turned out to be harmless.

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