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The world as written by The Onion and/or the TSA - Input Junkie
December 15th, 2010
07:54 am

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The world as written by The Onion and/or the TSA
The so-called “Tefillin Bomber”, as Jews are enjoying calling him, is the news item du jour, given that panic arising from a 17-year-old Orthodox Jew’s so-called “strange” activities onboard a New York-Louisville flight freaked out surrounding passengers enough to have the plane diverted to Philadelphia…because they didn’t know that he was praying. That, of course, raises the question of just how to tell people what happened. Who knows what tefillin are, and how do you explain that to the masses?

The first stories to hit the wires reliably used the term “phylacteries,” a handy English word for the pair of leather prayer boxes and straps many Jews have been using in morning prayers for thousands of years.

But that begs the humorous anecdote: if they don’t know what tefillin are, they certainly won’t have any idea what a phylactery is. Interestingly enough, the reason almost anyone knows what a phylactery is is because Jews traveling with tefillin have been stopped by airport security for decades with the weird square items showing up on x-rays; to provide an explanation, one could simply say “oh, those are phylacteries, they’re used for prayer.” And the look of non-comprehension on the part of the security personnel was just part of the experience of traveling as an observant Jew.

Side joke: where do they make tefillin? In a phylactery factory, of course.


I checked, and it's based on a real news story.





Link thanks to faithhopetricks.

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[User Picture]
From:sethg_prime
Date:December 15th, 2010 01:13 pm (UTC)
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When a friend of mine had her daughter, I went to visit her in the hospital, but I arrived after visiting hours were over. “Are you a relative?” the receptionist asked. Without missing a beat, I said, “I’m the father’s chevruta.” And they let me in.
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From:redaxe
Date:December 15th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
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Oddly, I saw a different but similar story recently:

Jewish ritual sparks New Zealand ferry bomb scare

WELLINGTON (AFP) – A religiously devout Israeli tourist sparked a bomb scare on a New Zealand ferry when he strapped boxes to himself as part of a Jewish prayer ritual, reports said Monday.

Armed counter-terrorism police met the ferry at Picton, on the South Island, and forced the man and his travelling companion to the ground before taking them away for questioning, the Dominion Post newspaper reported.

It said the incident Sunday occurred when the man began carrying out a Jewish ritual where small leather boxes called tefillin, containing religious verses, are strapped to the arm and forehead.

Ferry operator Kiwirail said staff on the vessel, which had 750 passengers aboard, were concerned about a possible bomb threat and contacted police before it docked.

"One individual had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead... there were what seemed to be wires attached to them," Kiwirail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw told national news agency NZPA.

New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said the armed response was unfortunate and showed "an exaggerated fear of terrorism" in the country.

"It's just a reminder we ought to pause and think before we jump to conclusions," he told the Dominion Post.

Police confirmed a man was questioned after reports he was acting suspiciously on the ferry and later released.


I'm not surprised, but somewhat sad that this could happen. Then again, consider the decline in the use of tefillin, now essentially restricted to Orthodox Jews, where other symbols of Judaism and its prayer (notably the yarmulke, and somewhat less, the tallit) are fairly well known even among non-Jews. (The tallit is still tolerably well known due to photos of prayer at the Western Wall.)
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From:dichroic
Date:December 15th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
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Something's weird somewhere in there - probably in the Kiwirail reporting. Otherwise, why would any Jew have tefillin "taped" to his *leg*?

I'd feel less alienated if that article hadn't put tefillin in scare quotes. And that's despite the fact that (as a girl raised Conservative) I've never worn them in my life.
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From:redaxe
Date:December 15th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
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I have no idea why they'd be "taped to his leg". I'd be inclined to question that as a perceptual error, but stranger things have happened.
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From:tod_hollykim
Date:December 15th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
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::sigh:: Just :;sigh:: I mean, I'm a goy and I *know* what the heck those things are! Just watch a few *old* movies like Fiddler on the Roof or that and you'll learn.

yeah, I know, I can't yell at the people involved, but it helps to vent.






bloody idiots.
[User Picture]
From:nancylebov
Date:December 15th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
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This kind of knowledge is very regional, and, I suppose, temporal. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a generation of people who mostly haven't seen Fiddler on the Roof.[1]

I've noticed that people in general are more likely to understand the badges I sell that have Jewish references when I'm near New York than when I'm near Baltimore. And that's not even thinking about parts of the country where there are very few Jews.

[1] Sidetrack: I wish there were a popular musical built around klezmer music.
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From:tod_hollykim
Date:December 15th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
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And part of my knowledge also comes from living in New Jersey, near Lakewood.

I can remember a couple of times when I was living in NYC and going down home for the weekend (in summer) where we'd be getting near Lakewood on the bus as well as getting near sunset. There might be a man or two that would stop the bus to get off a bit before the station. Simply because it was getting too near sunset.
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From:andrewducker
Date:December 15th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
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Maybe the guards had just been playing too much D&D.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:December 15th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
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The flight was met by law enforcement personnel and officials from the Transportation Security Administration.
 
The teen was interviewed...

I have to wonder what the "interview" was like, and how many hours it was before he was allowed to go on his way.

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From:agrumer
Date:December 15th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
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From:squid314
Date:December 15th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
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I know exactly what tefillin are, but if someone told me they had a phylactery I'd assume they were a lich.
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From:beatnikbetty
Date:December 15th, 2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
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50,000 reasons why TSA is wasting time, money, and violating privacy.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 17th, 2010 01:00 am (UTC)
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Didn't Ellen Kushner just talk of her--let's see--"feminist klezmer magical realist shtetl musical" radio drama (starring Neil Gaiman) at the PSFS meeting? The Witches of Lublin, coming in spring to NPR.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 17th, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
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Damn, I missed the December meeting.
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