‘I felt more Jewish than Muslim,’ says Arab convert taking Israeli music scene by storm

“I remember saying to my mom, ‘Mom, everyone has a bar mitzvah, what about me?'” said Avi Abu Romi.

By World Israel News Staff

Boasting a YouTube channel with 13 million views and sold-out performances in Herzliya’s 400-seat Zappa club, Avi Abu Romi is a rising star in the Israeli music world. By all accounts, the 25-year-old Hebrew-language singer appears to be a typical Israeli pop star. But there’s much more to him than meets the eye.

Abu Romi was born in Eilat to Muslim parents, Arab Israelis originally from Nazareth. He explained to website Mako that his largely secular parents moved to the southern Red Sea resort town intending to expose their children to Jewish Israeli culture.

Growing up, Abu Romi was enrolled in Jewish schools, celebrated Jewish holidays and had Shabbat dinner with his Jewish friends. “From a young age, I knew one of the most important things I wanted to accomplish in my life – was to be Jewish,” Abu Romi told Mako.

At age 13, when his classmates had their Bar Mitzvah ceremonies, Abu Romi felt he was missing something. “I remember saying to my mom, ‘Mom, everyone has a bar mitzvah, what about me?’ That was the stage where I actually started asking myself who I was,” he said.

“The way I look at it, I do differ and it bothered me a lot. I felt much more Jewish than Muslim. I did think at the age of 16 and came to the conclusion that I wanted to start converting.”

He enlisted in the IDF and was able to complete an Orthodox conversion via a specialized track for soldiers. The process was challenging, he said, requiring him to live an observant lifestyle, but he managed to complete it. “I did not feel a different person [afterwards] but in my heart I was really happy,” he said. “It was a relief.”

Today, Abu Romi still keeps Shabbat and maintains a traditional level of observance. “I kept keeping Shabbat, praying, putting on tefillin, to this day I put on tefillin. I still keep a lot of the commandments,” he said, admitting that he’s not perfect.

Although it might come as a surprise to some, his family accepted the conversion without pushback. His mother even revealed that she’d wanted to convert as a young woman, but found the process too daunting. Abu Romi’s sister is currently a soldier serving in the IDF.

Abu Romi uploaded music to YouTube and performed in clubs for years, slowly building a dedicated fanbase, but he hit the big time in May 2020 with his ballad. “To my love.”

The smash hit song was dedicated to soldier Amit Ben Yigal, who was slain last year by a Palestinian terrorist during his army service.

“I thought to myself maybe I should dedicate the song to them [Ben Yigal and his girlfriend, Osher] and I happily sent a message,” said Abu Romi.

“It turns out that Amit and Osher would come to my shows, and that gave me goosebumps. I told Osher, this song is yours, yours and Amit’s, may his memory be a blessing.

“The song came out and I felt that the whole country embraced it, that we all embraced Amit. It is one of the beautiful things in the Jewish people – you see everyone as part of one heart. The Jewish people are one big heart.”