A picture of an Orthodox Jew encased in a giant plastic bag is causing some debate on the Internet this week, as commenters attempt to explain the man's unusual traveling garb.
The picture was posted early Thursday morning with the caption, "An Orthodox Jew in an airplane with women - so he covers himself with a plastic bag..."
Ultra-Orthodox Jews adhere to a strict set of guidelines that include gender segregation in public. In fact, Israeli airline El Al has noticed an increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox men asking to switch seats to avoid sitting next to women. One woman even sued the airlines for allegedly moving her to the back of a plane after ultra-Orthodox men refused to sit next to her.
However, netizens were quick to point out that the "flying with women" explanation may not be entirely accurate.
"This has nothing to do with women," one user writes. "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."
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."
As a controversial solution - not entirely agreed upon 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.