A Muslim man sparked an FBI probe after posing as an Orthodox Jew to get married, then claiming he was an NSA worker after being busted by his family.
Eliyah Hawila, 23, whose real name is Ali Hassan Hawila and who hails from Lebanon, struck up an online relationship with Sally, a Jewish woman of Syrian descent who lives in Brooklyn, New York.
In what appears to be a lovestruck moment of madness, Haliwa went on to fabricate an entire backstory relating to his non-existent Jewish roots after his new bride became suspicious about his past.
He says he became obsessed with the Jewish religion during his lonely teenage years in the Lebanese countryside, and that he’d tried to convert, only to be rejected by a synagogue.
Upon uncovering the deception, Sally’s parents stepped in, called the FBI and pulled their daughter away from her husband
Eliyah Hawila, 23, left, whose real name is Ali Hassan Hawila and who hails from Lebanon, struck up a relationship online with a Jewish woman of Syrian descent, Sally, seen right, who lived in Brooklyn, New York. Hawila, who was born Muslim, pretended he was Jewish
Hawila is now speaking out about his story, apologizing for his lies, professing love for his wife
Hawila was in fact from the southern Lebanon town of Tyre and was born into a Shi’ite Muslim household.
But none of this was mentioned as the couple’s relationship developed and deepened.
Hawila went as far as to learn Hebrew in order to recite Jewish prayers as well as signing up to a local Chabad community center at Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas, where he could study the Torah.
He also alluded to his Jewish heritage with his lineage containing fake Ashkenazic names including Meyer Lansky, the name of a former Jewish gangster.
Hawila and Sally eventually wed at a ceremony in New York, but a few weeks after taking their vows, she became suspicious of her husband’s background upon discovering his Lebanese passport that displayed his Arabic name.
Sally immediately told her friends and family who in turn contacted authorities. She is now said to be living in a safe house.
Upon moving to the U.S. Hawila learned Hebrew and appeared to be a devout religious Jew
Hawila has shared wedding video which purports to show a couple having fun and in love
The FBI is now investigating not just the alleged deception but Hawila’s claims that he worked as an agent for the NSA and even produced a ‘fake latter’ from coworkers at the agency to prove his employment.
The US Department of Homeland Security is also examining, together with the Israeli consulate in New York, the possibility the man came into the country illegally.
They say there is no suggestion he was involved in any terrorist behavior.
‘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,’ Hawila said to the Times of Israel.
‘Things started coming out and the rumors started and they took her away from me, they separated her away from me,’ he said through tears.
Hawila said that his connection to Judaism is not fleeting and had actually begun while he was living with his family in Lebanon as a young boy.
‘This is what I belong to, this is how I feel connected, so I started coming out to people, and saying ‘I’m Jewish.’ People started spitting on me in the streets, I started getting death threats.’
None of Hawila’s family attended his wedding which only deepened suspicion over his background
Hawila claims his family eventually moved to the U.S. legally and he began searching for synagogues in the area, initially hoping to convert from Islam.
‘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.
After studying engineering at Texas A&M he became active in Jewish and pro-Israel organizations with nobody expressing any doubts over his Middle Eastern background.
‘I still said I came from Lebanon because, you know, I read a lot about the Lebanese Jewish community and I was impressed by it.’
Hawila said he claimed to be an NSA agent after being confronted by his wife about his Lebanese passport and Arabic name, pictured
Hawila said he claimed to be an NSA agent after being confronted by his wife about his Lebanese passport and Arabic name.
‘When she saw the ID, I had to make something up, so I told her, you know what, this is an NSA ID, that I’m on a mission, things like that, I just made something up,’ he began.
‘Time passes and I met with her parents and I told them the same story. But her parents, they just inspect everything,’ he added.
‘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.”‘
‘So I started making even more stuff up, I was panicking, and they took her away from me, they separated her away from me,’ he said.
The FBI became involved after there were suspicions aroused that he could be working for a terrorist group set to infiltrate the Jewish community. Hezbollah has its headquarters in southern Lebanon.
‘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.”‘
Hawila was in fact from the southern Lebanon town of Tyre and was born into a Shi’ite Muslim household. He is pictured before he ‘became Jewish’ and moved to the U.S.
The FBI have so far found nothing to suggest he was involved in terror-related activities or falsified any documents.
Hawila also says he never meant to hurt his wife, Sally, but the two are now living apart.
‘If she wants to give me a second chance, she can give me a second chance, 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,’ Hawila said.
Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff of the Jewish Student Center at Texas A&M University where Hawila used to spend time while on campus, has now distanced himself over the entire episode, despite attending his religious Jewish wedding.
‘This is an unfortunate case of a confused youth who struck up a virtual relationship with a member of the Syrian Jewish community who was mortified to discover after her marriage that he was not Jewish,’ Rabbi Lazaroff wrote in a statement.
‘A Chabad rabbi in Texas was asked by the officiating rabbi to walk the groom to the Chupah since he did not have any close relatives in the US.
‘We were clearly all misled about his identity. Our hearts go out to this woman, her family and everyone else deceived by this individual here in Texas and in New York and New Jersey.’