Kuwaiti Jewish Convert Receives Unexpected Support But What About Him Moving to Israel?

Published December 18th, 2019 - 11:38 GMT
Young Kuwaiti man converts to Judaism
Young Kuwaiti man converts to Judaism

A video of a young Kuwaiti man speaking in Hebrew has sparked a debate online after he announced that he had converted to Judaism, a controversial decision in his faith and his country.

Yousef Al-Mhanna, 25, who now goes by Naftali Ben Yahuda is currently living in London where he's temporarily residing after his conversion.

In a BBC Arabic program, Naftali talked about living in Kuwait as convert while having to keep his Jewish faith a secret, especially coming from a family of devout Muslims. 

He also expressed his hopes of moving to Israel once he finishes what he described as the legal process of becoming a Jewish man.

Many Kuwaiti social media users expressed their shock, as it is very unusual for Muslims to convert to Judaism.

Translation: "This guy is nothing but propaganda. Maybe he has converted to becoming Israeli but there is no way he can become Jewish".

However, there was also an unexpected level of support and acceptance for his decision from within the Arab community, with a number of people highlighting that freedom of belief and religion is a right. 

Translation: "It is his personal choice".

Translation: "A young Muslim converts to Judaism and says in an interview with a news channel: My conversion to Judaism is not because I like it, rather it's because of my belief that the Torah is a divine book. We need to understand the mentality of converts, and have to consider all emotional, social and material aspects of that person..."

Among the support, some social media users couldn't ignore the underlying politics of an Arab Muslim man choosing to pursue life in Israel as a Jewish person. 

Translation: "Yousef is my relative and we use to play together when we were young. He's a smart guy. Effectively he's searching for himself and that's not wrong. But with God's guidance, if only he hadn't chose to convert to a religion that's politicized to this extent, it wouldn't have been such a big deal."

There was some speculation that Nafatali was disguising his true intentions of wanting to move to Israeli.

But in the same TV interview, he denied the allegations that he's trying to seek asylum, pointing out that he led a well-off life back in Kuwait.

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