Security guards at a Jordanian airport desecrated a rabbi’s tefillin (phylacteries) during a security check before he boarded a plane.
Rabbi Moshe Haliwa, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Dubai, was waiting to board a connecting flight to Abu Dhabi during a layover at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport when security officials seized the rabbi’s tefillin.
According to a report by Yediot Aharanoth, the security officials seized Rabbi Haliwa’s tefillin after he disembarked following his flight from Israel.
The rabbi spent over an hour trying to explain that the phylacteries are religious Jewish items, but to no avail, with the guards insisting the leather straps could be used to strangle fellow passengers on the connecting flight.
"I cried and pleaded," said Rabbi Haliwa. "I explained that it's sacred. That we are cousins who pray to the same God. That there's no mettle inside and it's safe. They insisted I can't take it inside the plane because I might use the straps to strangle someone.”
"I told them Jews fly through international airports all the time and have never strangled anyone. I explained it's sacred and very valuable. Nothing helped. There were six of them around me, asking me too show them how to use it, so I did, but they still insisted I leave it. Eventually, I agreed for them to cut the straps and leave the rest.”
"They told me that if I continue insisting, they'd call the police. I asked to speak to the supervisor but nothing helped. They insisted on keeping the leather strings."
“It was appalling. It reminded me of scenes from the 1930s when they cut the sideburns of Jews. I was humiliated but I didn't want them to call the police. The incident felt very antisemitic."
This is not the first time Jewish religious articles have been singled out by Jordanian border control officials.
Last year, dozens of Israeli insurance agents were barred from entering the Hashemite kingdom after seven of them were found to be carrying religious items including tefillin and prayer shawls.
"As soon as they checked the bags, they started taking our tefillin out of the bags and at the same time asked for our passports,” one of the travelers told Israel Hayom. “They took us into a room and there they explained to us that religious symbols are not allowed, they would excuse it as 'maintaining our security' even though we told them that we only put on the tefillin in our room, there are no religious symbols that we walk around with. We were there for an hour and a half and not given answers, we have returned to Israel."
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has warned Israeli travelers to avoid displaying Jewish items when traveling to Jordan.
"The Jordanian authorities state that for security reasons they ask religious Israelis not to display the religious symbols: tallit, kippah, etc. It has often happened that items such as tallit and tefillin were not allowed in at the border crossing, and the traveler was asked to return to Israel or deposit his religious belongings at the border crossing, until the end of his visit to Jordan,” the Ministry wrote on its website.