A secular Muslim man who married an Orthodox Jewish woman after posing as a Jew says he still hopes to convert to Judaism, ideally in Israel.
Eliya Hawila made headlines this month after it was discovered that he had lied about having Jewish heritage, and was, in fact not Jewish when he married a Sephardic Jewish woman in Brooklyn.
The revelations came shortly after Eliya’s wedding, and resulted in the couple separating.
The story, and subsequent debunked allegations in media outlets that Hawila had ties to terrorism, fueled rumors regarding the story and Hawila’s own background.
On Saturday night, Hawila spoke out publicly, Yeshiva World News reported, in an interview with Zev Brenner on Talkline in which Hawila admitted having lied about his heritage, while emphasizing his continuing interest in converting to Judaism.
Born to a Shi’ite Muslim family in Lebanon, Hawila said that he never felt connected to Islam, and was very much secular, never attending mosque services.
“I don’t believe in Islam,” he said. “It’s not my religion.”
After his parents separated and his father, an American citizen, moved to the US, Hawila left Lebanon, after graduating from high school.
Before moving to the US, ultimately settling in Texas, Hawila said that he became interested in Judaism, reading about the religion and learning Hebrew starting in 2014.
Hawila claimed that he received threats from his father and had to conceal his interest in Judaism.
After moving to Texas, Hawila said he reached out to a Reform congregation, but received no response. At that point, Hawila claims, he began to pose as a Jew.
While studying at Texas A&M University, Hawila attended the local Hillel House, claiming that he was Jewish.
Later, when he began visiting a local Chabad outreach center, Hawila was asked if his mother was Jewish, and answered that she was.
“It pains me that I lied to the Chabad rav [rabbi] and no one should blame him.”
“They should blame me, but they should understand my pain.”
Hawila eventually began dating Jewish women, avoiding non-Jewish women.
After meeting his future wife, Hawila began adding additional layers to his Jewish persona, lying about working for the National Security Agency – a falsehood he used to explain the name on his passport, which did not match the name he had used during dates.
The deception continued until a week after the wedding, when the bride’s father began searching extensively on the internet for more information about his new son-in-law, discovering his true identity.
“They went crazy,” Hawila said. “I wanted to cover things up so I lied more and more.”
“I was afraid they were taking her away from me, I’m finally living a Jewish life. She’s the love of my life and they’re going to take her away.”
Hawila expressed remorse for deceiving the bride and her family, saying: “I will beg her for forgiveness for the rest of my life and beg for a second chance.”
He went on to say that he still hopes to convert to Judaism, ideally in Israel.
“I am begging anybody to convert me, and I prefer to be converted in Israel.”