Nizar Mahameed, a 30-year-old Haifa resident, arrived at the rabbinical court in the city several months ago and asked to convert to Judaism. He presented to the rabbis with all the documents required to start the process, and was referred to a rabbi to begin conversion lessons.
But the road from being Nizar Mahameed, the son of a prominent Arab Muslim family from Umm al-Fahm, to becoming Nati Peretz, a Shabbat and kashrut observing Jew, was not an easy one.
Nati (Nizar) was born in Haifa's downtown to the Mahameed clan, which numbers some 6,000 members. The family has produced some of Israel's most well-known Arab leaders, including former Hadash Knesset Member Hashem Mahameed.
But according to Nati, he never felt like he belonged to the environment which he grew up in. "All my friends are Jewish, I live in a Jewish neighborhood, and I don't feel any relation to the Arab sector or to Islam," he explained.
"I celebrate the Jewish holidays and not the Muslim ones. I didn't fast on the Ramadan but I did fast on Yom Kippur. I built a sukkah on Sukkot and lit a menorah on Hanukkah.
"In spirit, in my heart and soul I am Jewish," he added.
About a month ago, Nati met a young Jewish woman from the city, Oshrat, and the two immediately fell in love. In the meantime he studies Judaism with a famous local rabbi's wife. Once he completes his studies, he would be able to go through the conversion procedure.
But his decision to become Jewish has led Nati's family to regard him as a traitor, and his father proclaimed he was no longer a member of the Mahameed family.