In Search of Sabbatai Zevi, the Self-proclaimed Messiah Who Led a crypto-Jewish Sect

Countless bunkers, a mystical sect's paradisaical shrine and a royal palace – a journey through Albania to find the burial place of a false Messiah

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A dervish from the Sufi Bektashi order performing a mystical ritual, in the town of Prizren, in Kosovo.
A dervish from the Sufi Bektashi order performing a mystical ritual, in the town of Prizren, in Kosovo.Credit: Visar Kryeziu / AP
Headshot of Haaretz columnist and literary supplement editor Benny Ziffer, who is artistic director of the poetry festival to be held in Metula.
Benny Ziffer
Headshot of Haaretz columnist and literary supplement editor Benny Ziffer, who is artistic director of the poetry festival to be held in Metula.
Benny Ziffer

I cast my eyes up at the high wooden ceiling and see a painting of an upside-down paradise. A green field crisscrossed by canals of golden water, a golden fountain in the center and around it depictions of flowerbeds and fruits. Below the ceiling, around the perimeter, is a latticed gallery, and below that panels decorated with paintings of imaginary dream cities, and a strip with the 99 names of Allah encircling the entire space. Under that come wooden doors painted with flowers in the colors of joy, which open into cells of seclusion. Everything is bathed in a soft light which enters through large stained-glass windows, between the decorated ceiling and the strip, in all the splendid colors of the rainbow.

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