The Safety of Awareness

Melanie Rovinsky

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Ignorance is bliss – well, that’s what we’ve all been told. And up until last week, I would have happily agreed with that phrase. However, a recent news story got me thinking about all of the problems that result from being misinformed and unaware.

On Jan. 21, a commuter plane en route from New York to Kentucky was diverted to Philadelphia when a Jewish teenager caused a scare by pulling out small boxes containing sacred scrolls. Tefillin, as the boxes are called, are strapped to the arm and head during morning prayer. Unfamiliar with the ritual, the captain landed the plane, which was immediately investigated by police, bomb-sniffing dogs, and FBI and Transportation Security Administration officials.

When I first read of the incident, I found it utterly hilarious. I couldn’t believe that such a comical mistake had been made. However, my humor slowly turned into disbelief, which inevitably gave way to anger. How could such a blatant error have been made?

Now, I am fully aware that when dealing with matters of airline security, one must conduct him or herself with extreme care and sensitivity. And I have no intention of belittling the amount of seriousness given to these incidences. I do believe, however, that this mistake brings up other problems inherent in our society.

Growing up, I was one of the five “actively” Jewish kids (including my sister and cousin) enrolled in the Meriden Public School system. I never adopted a minority mentality, but I grew quite used to being around individuals who knew little to nothing about my religion. For this reason, I am not surprised that the boy on the plane faced uncertainty or even accusations. What does bother me, is the fact that not a single person aboard, flight crew included, had ever seen or heard of tefillin. Even more surprising, is that the plane left from a major airport in New York – not Meriden, CT.

In retrospect, I fully understand that when it comes to safety, nothing can be left to chance. I also recognize that some Jewish traditions may seem a bit strange to an unfamiliar onlooker – especially something as suspicious as a small black box. The issue is not whether or not the boy should have been investigated, but rather why the investigation was initiated. How can we maximize security if we don’t even know what we’re investigating?

Now more than ever, each person must strive to reach beyond their realm of familiarity into the deep, dark unknown. Learning about other religions, ethnicities, and cultures will help you broaden your horizons and achieve blissful awareness. And who knows, maybe one day your knowledge will prevent you from missing your connecting flight.

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The Safety of Awareness