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Lebanese Muslim who posed as Orthodox Jew to wed: I loved her and they took her away

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The stories that emerged this month of a Lebanese Shiite Muslim man who impersonated an ultra-Orthodox Jew for several years and was uncovered only after he had wed a member of the insular Brooklyn Syrian Jewish community, sent shockwaves through both the Jewish and Arab worlds.

The revelation sparked fears, and an FBI investigation, that the man, Eliyah Hawila, 23, was working for a terror group to infiltrate the Jewish community, and also outrage that rabbis overseeing the wedding had failed to spot that he was an imposter.

But speaking to Israeli media for the first time in an interview broadcast Sunday, Hawila presented his side of the story, claiming that he was motivated by his desire to live a Jewish life, hurt at being rejected for conversion and his love for the woman.

“I want to just tell you my story from A to Z, and I want to just come out and tell you the truth. I can’t lie about anything anymore,” he told the Kan public broadcaster, speaking in fluent English.

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

“Things started coming out and the rumors started and they took her away from me, they separated her away from me,” he said with a sob.

Two weeks after the wedding, the bride’s family discovered documents in his home including a Lebanese passport under a different name.

He was born Ali Hassan Hawila to a Shiite family in southern Lebanon, he confirmed to Kan, holding up a picture of the passport.

“I was born in Lebanon, to parents who were born to Muslim Shiite families. I lived in a town called Tyre. My dad used to pray and fast like regular Muslims, but my mom, she never was religious. I had no connection to Islam, I had no connection to religion,” he said.

Hawila described feeling no kinship or connection with his peers during his time in high school in Lebanon, so he began to explore other religions.

“The first thing I remember googling was Jewish Bible, and I got a copy of the Tanach, a PDF. I felt, you know what, this is right, this feels like the word of God. So I started looking up even more and more, Jewish laws, Jewish prayers.”

Hawila describes making his own kipah out of cardboard and cloth.........

© The Times of Israel

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