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A LETTER FROM SHABTAI ZVI
Jerusalem Post - Jerusalem
Author: Rabinovich, Abraham
Date: May 12, 1989
Start Page: 10
Section: Features
Abstract (Document Summary)

IN THE 17th century, [SHABTAI ZVI] electrified the Jewish world from Yemen to Russia with his revelation that the Messianic era had arrived and that he was the Messiah. He convinced not only the unsophisticated masses also but much of the religious establishment - Sephardi and Ashkenazi - in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Not even his eventual embrace of Islam persuaded all his followers that he was a false messiah.

[Nathan] did not dismiss him as a lunatic. Subject to mystic inclinations himself, just two months before Shabtai Zvi's arrival in Gaza Nathan had a vision that the strange Jew from Smyrna was the Messiah. He now told him this. Shabtai Zvi, who had come to Gaza to be relieved of the terrible burden of his fantasy, suddenly had it thrust back upon him. Any hope for earthly salvation was gone.

The sultan's efficient secret service, closely following the great agitation in the Jewish community, seized Shabtai Zvi and threw him in chains into a dungeon. Some well-placed bribes soon brought him better accomodations in a fortress in Gallipoli. Shabtai Zvi denied that he had ever claimed to be the Messiah, but court officials told him he would have to convert to Islam or die. Shabtai Zvi decided to take the turban.

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