To the uninformed, this could be just another ker-azy picture that ended up on Reddit this week.
But gather round: It’s actually an Orthodox Jewish man – most likely a Cohen (or holy priest) for whom visting a cemetery (and that includes flying over one) or coming into contact with the dead is forbidden – hence the unusual travelling garb.
The image was originally posted on Reddit with the caption: “An Orthodox Jew in an airplane with women – so he covers himself with a plastic bag.”
Ultra Orthodox Jews must avoid flying over cemeteries as it renders them impure
But while ultra-Orthodox Jews do adhere to strict guidelines which include gender segregation in public, this image is apparently unrelated to those particular rules.
"This has nothing to do with women," user "thenewyorkgod" wrote. "He is a cohen,' descendant from the high holy priests of the temple and they are not allowed to walk into or fly over a cemetery, which would render them impure."
According to Haaretz: “Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, the leader of the Lithuanian Haredi community in Israel, published a halakhic ruling in the past stipulating that Cohens mustn’t fly... because they are prohibited from flying over a cemetery.
“Later, Rabbi Eliashiv found a solution to this issue, ruling that wrapping oneself in thick plastic bags while the plane crossed over the cemetery is permissible.”
Indeed, there seems to be some precedent for holy men attempting to travel in plastic bags to and from Israel.
In 2001, El Al Airlines decided not to allow ultra-Orthodox Jews of priestly descent to "hermetically seal themselves in plastic bags when flying over the Holon cemetery in order to avoid ritual impurity."
El Al stated "flight safety considerations do not allow for passengers to board while covered in sealed plastic bags."
Still, the paper reported that in 2002 a flight crew got into a heated dispute with an ultra-Orthodox passenger who attempted to fly wrapped in plastic, according to Haaretz. The confrontation eventually led the pilot to turn the plane around.
It is not known when this particular image was taken, or what airline the man was travelling on, but as the Jewish Press points out: "Since he reached his destination safe and sound, it can be assumed there was a hole in the plastic bag so he could breathe."
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