The New York Daily News offered an explanation. The man is said to be a Kohen, and as the aircraft flew over a cemetery, he covered himself in a plastic bag so he could remain pure. Under the Jewish law, Kohanim are banned from going near cemeteries.
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Initially, however it was thought the man was distancing himself from women as haredi men maintain strict rules of gender segregation in public.
Haredi in plastic bag. (Photo from: New York Daily News)
Religious newspaper Kikar Hashabat reported that Orthodox paper Yated Ne'eman claimed that the man is resident of Bnei Brak, who was visiting England to raise funds for his community.
However, because US President Barak Obama was just concluding his visit to Israel, Israeli skies were closed to commercial traffic, and their flight was redirected to Cyprus, where the men spent Shabbat.
Upon returning to Israel they learnt that the route the plane was intended to take passes over a cemetery. Hence, at the rabbi's advice they wrapped the man in a big plastic bag.
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