The 'tefillin terrorist' and a scare on a New Zealand ferry

By Jennifer Lipman, December 13, 2010
A bomb? No, just tefillin

A bomb? No, just tefillin

Armed police forced a religious Israeli man to his knees and took him away for questioning after passengers on a New Zealand ferry mistook his tefillin boxes for an explosive device.

The man and a friend were later freed without charge, after police realised that they were not a terrorist threat and were merely observing Jewish practice.

An elite police unit was called in when another passenger saw the man strapping the leather boxes to his arm and alerted crewmembers.

The crew decided not to question the man for another three hours, concerned that approaching him could trigger panic on board. However at the end of the journey they alerted an elite police unit, who witnesses said pushed the man to the ground.

Kevin Ramshaw, a spokesman for the ferry company, told the Dominion Post newspaper: "There were what seemed to be wires attached to them [the boxes].

He added: "Just because someone is doing something religious in public, that doesn't mean that they are a terrorist."

New Zealand race relations commissioner Joris de Bres described the incident as "an unfortunate over-reaction".

In September an Orthodox Jewish man narrowly escaped arrest after he was stopped by security officers at Munich airport while carrying a shofar.

Last updated: 4:11pm, December 13 2010