A startling photo of a plane passenger who wrapped himself in a plastic bag for his flight has hit the internet.
The man dressed entirely in black beneath folds of plastic, sightly bows his head beneath the tied ends seen piled on his head. The passengers behind him strain to catch a look.
The photo was posted to Reddit http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/1c4jie/an_orthodox_jew_in_an_airplane_with_women_so_he on Thursday amid suggestions that the man is a Kohein, religious descendant of the priests of ancient Israel, who are banned from flying over cemeteries.
Many wrap themselves in plastic bags as a compromise measure.
‘In orthodox and Conservative communities, Kohanim,’ plural of Kohein ‘are expected to abstain from coming in contact with the dead, which includes a prohibition on visiting cemeteries except for the funerals of close relatives,’ Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser writes in an article for About.com. http://judaism.about.com/od/beliefsandlaw1/f/kohen_inher.htm
As a controversial solution – not entirely agreed upon http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/247/kohanim-advised-to-fly-from-israel-at-night even by those in the Jewish Orthodox – the plastic bag used by the man here, would create a kind of barrier between the kohein and the surrounding tumah, or impurity.
Some flights also go to great lengths to take specific paths to avoid cemeteries. Passengers can also be made aware in advance if a body will be aboard the plane in cargo.
Despite what could be seen as a solution, albeit unusual, flights have been delayed or turned around because they refused to carry the passenger wrapped in a bag out of safety concerns.
Even if they can be secured by a seat belt, the passengers wouldn’t be able to reach an oxygen mask or quickly escape the plane in the event of an emergency.
Also is the question of how they can breathe.
Pre-punched holes in the plastic are said to invalidate the barrier, according to Jewish newspaper YatedNe’eman. http://www.yated.com/kohanim-concerns-while-flying-to-and-from-eretz-yisroel.0-576-0.html
‘Only if when the kohein is putting on this bag it accidentally rips can there be some leniency,’ the article claims.
‘Kohanim have a duty to protect their taharah, purity,’ according to the article. ‘They have been bestowed with extra kedushah which makes them worth of being meshorsei Hashem. At times, there may be extra demands made upon them in order to maintain that standard of kedushah and taharah.’