Friday, November 16, 2007

Bomb Scare on Train... from Jew?

(Hat tip: Rea) This story is really interesting:
Confusion over a Jewish man practicing an ancient religious tradition brought a South Shore train to a halt early Thursday.

Before the misunderstanding was resolved, Metra police and a bomb-sniffing dog were called to a Chicago train stop to investigate.

Robert Byrd, chief of transit police for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, said passengers on Train No. 108 out of East Chicago told the ticket collector they believed a man on the 6:46 a.m. train was dressed strangely and acting suspiciously.

The man was described as wearing a head piece with a box on the front of it. Passengers said the box had wires sticking out of it. Other wires led down his arm, they reported.
I've often wondered why this doesn't happen more often, actually. I had a strange and hilarious experience flying to Israel on the first day the TSA took over; I was remarkably unimpressed with the security, particularly when the two [!] guys checking me spent about 10 minutes flipping through every page of my siddur, but gave my tefillin [see the description above] barely a passing glance. Rea said it well via e-mail:
Yea, its just that these days people have such a phobia against things they don’t understand - especially religion, and automatically perceive it as a threat.
In a way, that can be a good thing; I have no problem with people reporting this guy on the train - it looks incredibly suspicious to someone who has never seen such a thing before. I think the line at the end of the article from a member of a Jewish organization sums it up well, not complaining whatsoever about people reporting the man:
Steinberg agreed and said he can understand why South Shore passengers may have been concerned, adding that many likely have not been witness to the religious practice.

"It's good that people are alert," Steinberg said. "I think this gives us an opportunity to learn about another culture or religion."
Amen. And we're all better off for it.


  1. Heh. Yeah, I could see why someone might think tefillin look suspicious. Combine that with those striped tzitzit that look like telleisim showing through the shirt and some fervent shuckling and you'd have quite a suspicious-looking character.

  2. I'm sure the train would have been struck by lightening if this fool had just responded rather than waiting for a point in his davening where he felt he could talk.

  3. Um, considering that it sounds like they didn't approach him but went straight to the police, and that he responded to the police who came to him, that's a pretty ridiculous statement.

  4. Not true Ezz...The story says "When the man did not respond to repeated inquiries by the South Shore ticket collector and conductor, crews called Metra police as they approached the Illinois passenger train company's tracks in Chicago."

    This guy is a fool.

  5. DAG - Hmm, didn't see that paragraph the first time I read it. Anon, I apologize!


  6. Last time I had to daven on a US domestic flight, I approached the stewdardesses first, and then turned to a few fellow passengers and announced "hope you don't mind, I'm going to be praying for a bit, may look a bit odd." -- Exactly so this kind of thing wouldn't happen.

    On another similar occasion, I asked the stewdardesses if I could hang out and daven in the galley, as "it looks a bit odd and I don't want to disturb any other passengers".

    The person this happened to just hasn't quite realized that things have changed and you need to take it into account.