Sunday, April 14, 2013

Since When Could The Ancients FLY???

It's not unusual for folk to have personal rituals when flying on planes, like wearing a St Christopher chain or keeping their eyes closed during take-off.
But recently a passenger on an Israeli airline El Al flight took his beliefs to new heights, by covering himself in a plastic bag for the whole journey!
This Orthodox Jewish man is a kohein, a religious descendant of the priests of ancient Israel, banned from flying over cemeteries and having contact with the dead (that includes no visiting cemeteries except for the funerals of close relatives)! Some mid-eastern flights go to great lengths to avoid flying over cemeteries. And Orthodox passengers can also be made aware in advance if a body will be aboard the plane in cargo.
Kohanim (that's the plural) reckon the plastic bag is a barrier against the impurities of the deceased. But how do they breathe? And this also raises security issues: even if bag-wrapped passengers can be secured by a seat belt, they can't reach an oxygen mask or quickly escape the plane in the event of an emergency.
In 2001, El Al decided not to allow ultra-Orthodox Jews to cover themselves in plastic. A year later, flight crew got into an argument with a passenger who attempted to fly in plastic: eventually the pilot turned the plane around!
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and women aren't allowed to mix in public, and El Al reports an increase in the number of religious men demanding to be reseated away from women. One woman even sued El Al, after she was moved to the back of a plane when an ultra-Orthodox man refused to sit next to her!
So, if this man is following a strict teaching from ancient Israel, tell me: when and how did these ancient priests come up with this bizarre flying rule in the first place?
And, hello: priests who can't visit cemeteries – what's with THAT?!

[...see also my blog post of 14 Dec.2010!]

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