Welcome to Times Will Tell, the weekly podcast from The Times of Israel. This week we’re speaking with Mark Halawa, who — although Jewish from birth according to halacha or Jewish law — only after some 11 years in Israel, recently gained his Israeli citizenship.
That’s because Halawa was born and raised in Kuwait to a family of Palestinian refugees. His father, once a colleague of Yasser Arafat, is a secular Muslim. His mother is the daughter of a Jewish woman from the Holy Land who married a Muslim man. So according to Muslim law, he’s Muslim. And according to Jewish law, he’s a Jew.
Hear how at age 24, Halawa learned about his Jewish identity. A few years later he learned about the Holocaust. He recounts his remarkable story of how he made his way from Kuwait to Jerusalem — via Jordan, Syria and Canada.
Today, after an almost canceled Jewish wedding and many rounds in the Interior Ministry, the Jerusalemite father of two is building his own tribe of tolerant citizens of the world.