Eliyah Hawila, a Lebanese-born Muslim man, reportedly posed as a Hasidic Jew in order to marry an Orthodox Jewish woman from Brooklyn, according to the Times of Israel.  

Reports allege that the 23-year-old, whose real name is Ali Hassan Hawila, created a fake Jewish identity for years — and that when his wife’s family began to uncover the truth, he claimed to be a spy for the U.S. government. 

Hawila said he was investigated by the FBI and abandoned by his wife after his real background came to light. But he continues to insist that his admiration for the Jewish faith is genuine, and said he’s holding out hope for a reunion with the “love of [his] life.” 

Reports: Eliyah Hawila Posed as a Jew to Marry Orthodox Wife

According to the Times of Israel, Hawila was only recently married to the woman, identified only as Sally, in a large ceremony paid for by New York’s Syrian Jewish community. The pair met through a Jewish dating service, on which the 23-year-old presented himself as an observant member of the faith. 

But when none of the groom’s family attended the wedding, his new in-laws grew suspicious.

“Her father began Googling my last name until he reaches my father, who tells him stuff about me, that: ‘No, he’s not Jewish, he’s not this, he’s not that,’” Hawila explained to Kan TV, an Israeli news station. 

The family also reportedly discovered his Lebanese passport among his belongings, revealing his true name and origin. But when confronted with evidence of his real identity, Hawila said he panicked and dug deeper. 

“When she saw the ID, I had to make something up, so I told her, you know what,  this is an [National Security Agency] ID, that I’m on a mission, things like that, I just made something up,” he told the Times

Sally was reportedly whisked away to a safehouse while her family continued to investigate the truth of Hawila’s background. Speaking with a Texas rabbi whose parish the 23-year-old had attended for years, the family was told that Hawila’s “conduct did not reflect that of a fully observant Jew.”

After the reality of his identity came to light, the marriage was annulled. But Hawila’s bizarre ruse also drew the attention of federal investigators, who were apparently concerned that his attempt to sneak into New York’s Orthodox Jewish community was part of a more sinister plot. 

“When the FBI agent came to my place, I said: ‘Sir I give you my permission to spy on all my phone calls, I am not affiliated with anybody,’” he said

Investigators later determined the 23-year-old had no links to terror groups. He was pretending to be Jewish, he said, out of a genuine desire to be Jewish. 

‘I’m Jewish’

Hawila told the Times of Israel that he was born in Lebanon to a Muslim family, but that he never felt any connection to the faith, and became fascinated with Judaism at a young age. After researching the Torah and Jewish laws on the internet, he said he secretly embraced the religion. 

“This is what I belong to, this is how I feel connected, so I started coming out to people, and saying ‘I’m Jewish,’” Hawila said. “People started spitting on me in the streets, I started getting death threats, people would call me a ‘Jew, a Jewish Dog.’”

When he and his family moved to the United States in 2015, Hawila felt he could fully embrace Judaism. He looked up a nearby synagogue to see if he could formally convert, but was apparently turned away. 

“When I got rejected I started just saying I’m Jewish. My name is Eliyah, and this is the name I chose for myself because I love the story of the prophet Elijah,” he told reporters. 

While away at college in Texas, Hawila said it was easy to pass as a Jewish man from Lebanon. He embedded himself in the local Jewish community, attending synagogue and becoming involved in various Jewish student and pro-Israel organizations. 

Eliyah Hawila is Hoping for a ‘Second Chance’

Now that the truth is out, Hawila said he regrets his deception, but hopes the people he hurt consider his perspective. 

“My lying is not justified, but at the same time, I lied because I was in pain, but I want to correct my mistake,” he said. “I want them to understand where my pain is coming from,” adding that he is planning to travel to Israel and officially convert. 

Hawila also said he believes he and Sally could patch things up. 

“If she wants to give me a second chance, she can give me a second chance,” he told reporters. If she doesn’t want to, I still can’t blame her. But I want her to know she is the love of my life.”