Messianist Crypto-Jews in the Ottoman Empire

Nov. 16 2015

Shabbetai Tsvi was one of Jewish history’s most notorious false messiahs. After the Ottoman sultan ordered him forcibly converted to Islam in 1666, a number of his followers, who came to be known as the Dönmeh, converted along with him, but clung to their heterodox Jewish faith in secret. Most of them lived either in Salonica or in what is now western Turkey; some have maintained their identity until today. William Armstrong reviews a recent book about their history:

[T]he Dönmeh became one of the most conspiracy-theory-prone subjects in modern Turkey. Some have painted the Dönmeh as a secret branch of world Jewry that undermined the Ottoman regime and played a central role in the demise of the empire in order to replace it with a secular Turkish republic. Some have even claimed that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, hailing from the Dönme heartland of Salonica, was himself a crypto-Jew.

The Burden of Silence, by the historian Cengiz Şişman, is a detailed study of the Dönmeh from the 17th century to today. Other volumes have focused on the historical and sociological development of the Dönmeh, but while Şişman does not ignore these aspects, he focuses on the theological and sectarian side of the subject.

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Read more at Hurriyet

More about: History & Ideas, Messianism, Ottoman Empire, Shabbetai Tzvi

Distrust of the Supreme Court Led Likud Voters to Rally around Netanyahu

Jan. 17 2020

A few weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu handily won the Likud party’s primary election, receiving 72 percent of the votes. He won despite the fact that he is facing indictments on corruption charges that could interfere with his ability to govern if he remains Israel’s premier, and despite the credible challenge mounted by his opponent, Gideon Sa’ar. Evelyn Gordon credits the results not to love of Netanyahu but to resentment of Israel’s overweening Supreme Court:

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Israeli Supreme Court