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  • Haliwa Does First Interview Since Story Broke

    Although Haliwa seemed to have genuinely developed an interest in Judaism, he engaged in extremely unethical behavior when instead of making the effort to convert, he began lying about his background due to the fear of being rejected by his Jewish friends. And then when he was ready to date, he registered on a Jewish dating site and continued lying despite the fact that he was well aware that Jews are prohibited from marrying non-Jews • Full Story

    Yeshiva World News

    YWN had made an editorial decision to ignore any further articles about the tragic story of a Lebanese Muslim man who deceived a frum woman from Flatbush into marrying him. This changed when “Eliya” Hawila went public on Motzei Shabbos in an interview with Zev Brenner on Talkline and stated he was considering filing harassment charges against YWN for being “unethical.”

    Although Haliwa seemed to have genuinely developed an interest in Judaism, he engaged in extremely unethical behavior when instead of making the effort to convert, he began lying about his background due to the fear of being rejected by his Jewish friends. And then when he was ready to date, he registered on a Jewish dating site and continued lying despite the fact that he was well aware that Jews are prohibited from marrying non-Jews.

    Hawila repeatedly portrayed himself as the victim rather than the people he deceived. He did pay lip service to being sorry for lying but didn’t seem to understand how unethical his behavior was, how damaging his actions were to those around him and how much pain he caused other people, especially the girl he married, due to his intentional deceit.

    Hawila said he was born to a Muslim Shi’ite family in Lebanon but never affiliated with the religion of Islam and never practiced it. “I don’t believe in Islam, it’s not my religion,” he said, adding that he never even stepped into a mosque.

    “I had spiritual emptiness growing up,” he said. “My parents didn’t have a healthy relationship, they’re separated. My father lives in Lebanon and my mother lives in Texas with my younger brother. Growing up, I never clicked with people. I didn’t feel like I clicked with Lebanese culture. I suffered a lot. I had trouble communicating with people and wasn’t able to resonate with people on the same intellectual level.”

    “My father is a US citizen and in high school, I realized I wouldn’t have any opportunities in Lebanon after I graduated so I begged my father to go to the US and establish himself so I and the rest of the family can join him when I was ready to go to college.”

    “In 2014, when I was in high school, someone came to my school and spoke about world religions and I decided I wanted to explore religion due to my spiritual emptiness,” he said. He started exploring Judaism and he really connected to it. He began reading resources about Jewish law and teaching himself Hebrew. “I decided that I wanted to be Jewish and I started telling people this. Then people started spitting on me on the street and I got death threats. My father threatened not to bring me to America if I continued so I began laying low.”

    When he came to America, to Texas, he began googling synagogues because he wanted to become Jewish. He claimed he reached out to a Reform synagogue but they never got back to him so he felt like he was being rejected and he decided to just continue his Jewish practices and tell people he was Jewish.

    When he started college at Texas A&M University, he went to the Hillel House and when they asked him if he was Jewish, he said yes because he was scared they would reject him otherwise. “I didn’t know any better,” he said. When he started going to the Chabad house, they asked him if his mother was Jewish and he said yes. “It pains me that I lied to the Chabad Rav and no one should blame him,”  he said. “They should blame me but they should understand my pain.”

    He didn’t want to date a non-Jewish girl so he dated Jewish girls, telling them of course that he was Jewish. He met a few Jewish girls but they didn’t work out and then in January he was matched to the girl he would eventually marry. After a few Zoom dates, he flew to New York to see her.

    He made up the story about working for the National Security Agency (NSA) because when he was dating his “wife,” she came to Texas and he took her to a gun shooting site and they had to present IDs. He pulled out an ID, which was a passport card and she saw his legal name which wasn’t Eliya. Later, she confronted him and he was afraid he would lose so he told her that he works for the NSA and the passport card is his NSA identity card for a mission.

    A week after the wedding, his “wife’s” father started to Google his last name and they discovered his true background. “They went crazy,” he 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.”

    “They took her away from me. I was struggling for a week so I can make up something so I can get my wife back and my Jewish life back. I started making up names, making up insane stories.”

    When Brenner asked him if he really thought he could get away forever with his lie about being Jewish, he responded: “All I was thinking about was that I didn’t want to lose her.” In answer to Brenner’s question about whether he realized he caused her pain, he said: “I will beg her for forgiveness for the rest of my life and beg for  a second chance.”

    “I am begging anybody to convert me and I prefer to be converted in Israel,” he concluded.

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