Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jewish Man Removed from Plane for Praying

I'll admit that, if you've never seen formal Jewish prayers being conducted, a Hassid praying could possibly make you nervous, what with the rhythmic bowing and muttering in Hebrew (which sounds vaguely like Arabic or Klingon). I, myself, have faced more than my fair share of confusion on the part of my goyish friends over my religious practices. One former roommate of mine, after being warned in advance of my practice of lighting sabbath candles on Friday nights, actually started screaming "Oh my G-d! What are you doing?" as if I were sacrificing small woodland creatures to the goddess or performing some other bizarre ritual. Explaining the kosher laws that control my dietary habits has also been particularly frustrating. (I must admit that, at my most irreverent, I simply say "I don't eat pork. You eat Jesus. Get over it!") This, of course, is in addition to those who feel the need to explain to me that my religion is wrong, that if I don't believe in Jesus, I'm an atheist, or that it's "okay" for me to be Jewish because Jesus was a Jew.

The ignorance and misperceptions of those not familiar with Judaism is to be expected. However, haven't we really gone way too far when the irrational discomfort of a couple of passengers is enough for an airline to throw an innocent man off of the plane? How far do we go in calming one person's nerves at the expense of another person's right to travel freely?

Let's take this practice to its most absurd conclusion. How do we respond when the uncontrollable verbal tics of a Tourrette's sufferer make other passengers nervous? Should we remove a black man from the plane because he makes the Klansmen in the back uncomfortable (or vice versa)? Should we forbid Arabs from flying in the post-9/11 world because their very presence may make their fellow travelers fear for their lives?

Isn't the more reasonable response to explain the situation to the nervous passenger? "I'm sorry, ma'am, but that passenger is simply praying (Jewish, black, Arabic, claustrophobic, suffering from a neurological disorder, etc.) and is no threat to you or other passengers on this flight. We can't remove a person who is doing nothing wrong regardless of how his behavior (or identity) makes you feel. If you'd like to take a later flight, we can make that option available. And thank you for flying with 'get a life, you spoiled, ignorant dimwit' airlines. Have a nice day."

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