JERUSALEM (VINnews) — Eliya Hawila, the Lebanese Arab who masqueraded as a Jew and married a Jewess from the Syrian Jewish community before being exposed has spoken to the Israeli press for the first time.
Roi Kais of the Kan broadcasting corporation interviewed Eliya, who is residing in a hotel in the US at present. Hawila described his youth in Lebanon as a child who did not identify with any of the factions in the war-torn country. Born in the city of Tyre, Hawila’s father was a practising Muslim but his mother was not devout and Eliya searched for a religious identity.
Picking up a bible, Eliya felt drawn to the Jewish people and decided to adopt some Jewish practices, even fashioning his own kippah. His mother noticed and told him to stop his behavior which could land him in trouble. Eliya instead brazenly told other people he’s Jewish, which resulted in his receiving death threats and nasty epithets.
After the family moved to the US on his father’s American citizenship, Eliya approached a Reform community in Houston and requested to convert but did not receive a response. Thinking that he was not wanted, Eliya decided to act as a Jew without formally converting. Choosing the name Eliya because he loved the story of Elijah, Eliya easily merged into the Texas Jewish community, studying engineering in Texas and becoming affiliated to Chabad.
As he began to think of marriage, he told his Syrian Jewish fiancee that his ID, which held a different name, was used simply because he worked for NSA and was on a mission with a different identity. She believed this and so did her parents but a family friend was suspicious and checked into Hawila’s identity, discovering his father who revealed the truth about Eliya.
Breaking down in tears when he describes how he was separated from his wife and even accused of being a terrorist, Eliya says he doesn’t know what the future will bring but wants to convert to Judaism in Israel. Even though he doesn’t hold much hope of returning to his wife who hails from a community which rejects all converts, he still declares that she is the love of his life.
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.”
Eliya believes that “after every bad there is good and Hashem helps” and hopes that his luck will take a turn for the good.