Peer Syed Mudassir Nazar Shah with Yaqub ibn Yusuf, The Mystic Bookseller of Jerusalem.
Yaqub ibn Yusuf was born Joshua Heckelman into a warm and traditional Conservative Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. He explains; In my early 20s I pursued spiritual studies with Reb Zalman Schachter in Winnipeg, Canada, There I discovered “the archetype of the Tzaddiq”, the inner and outer figure of the spiritual master in the Hasidic teachings of Rebbe Nahman. Following that through, I came to Israel in 1976 looking for a spiritual teacher and became the disciple of Sidi Sheikh Muhammad al Jemal on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. From Sidi I received my Arabic name, recalling my Jewish father and grandfather. For seven years I followed Sidi’s Islamic Sufi teachings and practices, but I couldn’t get past the sense that he expected me to embrace Islam as a religion, although Judaism is my religion. I discovered the more broad-minded the world of Turkish Sufism and I studied, for many years, with Murat Yagan in western Canada – and I put together a book of his oral teachings which I’ve shared with various groups, over years: ‘The Essence of Sufism in the Light of Kebzeh, the Teachings of the Caucasus Mountains’. I later made a connection with a Turkish teacher of the Way of Blame of Melamet, Baba Selim Ocik, who lived in Istanbul. I came back to Israel in 1990 to pursue the academic study of Kabbalah and Hasidism with Prof. Moshe Idel. I found myself at home in the multi-faceted world of Jerusalem. In 1997 I opened Olam Qatan, based on the Kabbalistic saying, “Everyone is a ‘microcosm'”. My idea was to open doors for all kinds of spiritual seekers, religious and secular, Jewish, and people from other religions. For the last three years, I’ve down-scaled from a brick-and-mortar bookstore to a bookstall at Jerusalem’s “First Station”. I’m working on several projects of Hasidic and Sufi books