Orthodox Jew causes bomb alert by praying

bomb, bomb scare, tefillinDo these look like bombs to you? They did to the crew of a New Zealand ferry. So much so that they radioed the police, who were waiting for the man wearing them when the ferry docked. Then the armed cops forced him and a companion to the floor.

All in a day’s work fighting terror. Or not.

In fact they’re tefillin, known in English as phylacteries , and they’re an essential part of Orthodox Jewish prayer. When the man strapped these to his arm and head in order to pray, the crew thought the little boxes looked like bombs and the straps like wires. The fact that these leather boxes are only a little more than an inch to a side wasn’t enough to reassure them.

This is a perfect example of how travel leads to a more understanding world. Before I visited Israel at age 20, I’d never seen tefillin and didn’t know what they were. Call me soft on terror, but I didn’t have a panic attack the first time I saw them, either. Travel teaches you that not everything different is weird, scary, and dangerous. Perhaps the crew of the ferry should stop shuttling back and forth between Wellington and Picton and see a bit more of the world.

[Photo courtesy user Chesdovi via Wikimedia Commons]