Aubrey Ross is an unusual man with an unusual pastime. He’s looking for Jewish Muslims. In Turkey. With the help of the Internet. And he’s convinced he has found some.
In a book entitled “The Messiah of Turkey,” due to be published this winter by Frank Cass Publishers in Great Britain, Ross reveals that there are a number of key figures in the present government of Turkey who are Sabbateans - i.e., followers of Shabbtai Tzvi, a Jew who, in the 17th century, claimed he was the messiah, God of Israel, and later converted to Islam.
Ross, an Orthodox Jew from London who has lectured on mysticism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem - but has university degrees in economics and the history of political thought, and is an adviser on pensions at the National Health Service in Great Britain - became intrigued by the subject when he was reading the chapter about false messiahs in Gershom Scholem’s “Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.”
“I was fascinated by a short sentence that said `many of them were still around in 1970,’” he says.
Shabbtai Zvi was born in Izmir, Turkey in 1625 and became a Muslim in the 1660s, Ross explains, when he was challenged by the sultan of Turkey for declaring that his mission as messiah was to take back the land of Israel, then under Ottoman rule. The sultan offered him three alternatives: make a miracle and become the true messiah of the Jews; be killed; or become a Muslim. Shabbtai Tzvi chose the latter.