Ex-Muslim Poses as Orthodox Jew to Marry Jewish Woman, Sparks FBI probe

A Shiite Muslim from Tyre, Lebanon, posed as a Jewish man and married a Jewish woman from Brooklyn, New York. Eliyah Hawila, a 23-year old Lebanese whose real name is Ali Hassan Hawila, was born and raised as a Muslim, with no Jewish heritage.

When his wife discovered a Lebanese passport with an Arabic name, Hawila reasoned that he was an NSA agent on a mission. Sally immediately notified her family. Her brother visited their New York apartment and discovered a Palestinian passport bearing another Muslim name.

Hawila convinced Sally, a Syrian-Jew from New York, that he is an ultra-orthodox Jew. The two were married in New York, August this year. The two met online while Hawila was living in Texas. At first, Sally did not doubt Hawila's Jewish background because he was "frum" and spoke Hebrew fluently.

According to the Times of Israel, a Rabbi's wife asked Hawila about his religious background as part of the wedding preparations. She repeatedly requested her husband and other rabbis to "confirm" Hawila's religious background but was dismissed many times.

Hawila spoke "a style of speech common among those who learn in yeshivas." He gave a convincing story explaining that he's estranged from his family in Lebanon and associated with Chabad Lubavitch in Texas for many years. Hawila's excuse also seemed to explain why no one in his family attended the wedding.

Susan's parents and friends eventually contacted the FBI, prompting an investigation and spurring the Jewish community in New York into a controversy. The FBI is investigating Hawila's claim that he is an NSA agent, including the alleged letter from an NSA colleague that was supposed to prove his employment. The US Department of Homeland Security and the Israeli consulate in New York are also investigating the possibility of Hawila entering the country illegally.

Appearing on Israeli television on November 28, Hawila expressed regret, disappointment and claimed that whatever lies may come from him, his love for his wife is real. "I want her to know she is the love of my life," he said.

Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff of the Jewish Student Center at Texas A&M University called Hawila's gaffe an "unfortunate case of a confused youth." "We were all misled about his identity," Lazaroff said. "Our hearts go out to this woman, her family, and everyone else deceived by this individual," he added.

Hawila also explained that he cooperated with the FBI's investigation. "I give you my permission to spy on all my phone calls; I am not affiliated with anybody," he told FBI agents who showed up at his apartment. The FBI's preliminary investigation reveals that he is not connected to any terrorist organization.

"I can't lie about anything anymore," Hawila said. He also sent a message to his wife, saying he would understand if she couldn't forgive her. "If she wants to give me a second chance, she can give me a second chance," he said.

Although Hawila's scandal shakes Jewish communities in the US, some are sending online support through Hawila's GoFundMe, in his bid to become accepted in the Jewish community.

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