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Samuel Griswold
Author, Publisher of FightingFascism.substack.com

Is Zelenskyy Today’s Judah Maccabee?

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

President Zelenskyy of Ukraine has been compared to Winston Churchill and King David, but should we now also compare him to Judah Maccabee?

Recent reports claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is recruiting Syrians to fight in Ukraine.  Apparently, he feels they are going to be more effective than the nearly 200,000 Russian troops he already has in Ukraine.  Or, maybe he figures that hired terrorists will be more loyal and brutal than young Russian conscripts being asked to fight neighbors and fellow Slavs.  So, I ask again, does this make Vlodomir Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s Jewish president, today’s Judah Maccabee?  For those who don’t know the story of Hanukkah, let me explain.

Putin is recruiting Syrians to fight in Ukraine…

Following the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was divided between his three top generals.  Seleucus Nicator came to rule the area around Syria, Lebanon and Israel, founding the Seleucid Empire.  One of his successors, King Antiochus IV, ascended the throne in 175 B.C.  Fearing the rising power of Rome, he decided to pursue the conquest of Egypt, in the hope that by increasing the size and power of his kingdom, he might be able to resist Rome.  This sounds very similar to Vladimir Putin trying to conquer Ukraine due to fear of an expanding NATO.  Antiochus was also called a madman and Putin’s current sanity has been questioned too.

Before Antiochus could invade Egypt, he would have to first unite the diverse cultural and religious elements of his kingdom in order to consolidate political support for his cause.  Under Alexander, Hellenization had been inclusive and allowed for cultural variation.  But, for Antiochus, it became forced assimilation and a form of totalitarian rule with him at its helm.  His interests and those of the nation were seen as the same.  One could argue that this was a form of proto-fascism.  Again, we see similarities with Putin, who sees his interests as one with those of Russia and does not recognize Ukrainians as culturally, or historically, distinct from Russians.

Hellenization became a form of totalitarian rule…

To succeed in his plan of annexing Egypt, Antiochus knew he would need to assimilate and reduce the influence of the Jews in his realm.  As neighbors with shared history, the Jews had a loyalty to Egypt and would potentially fight on their behalf.  Marching his army into Jerusalem, he forced out the Jewish High Priest, Onias III, and installed his brother, Joshua, who was loyal to Antiochus.  Upon becoming High Priest, himself, Joshua changed his name to the more Hellenized name of Jason and began implementing Antiochus’ will.  Jewish cultural and religious practices were subjugated to those of the Greek mainstream society around them.  Jews were forced to conform to the totalitarian vision of Antiochus.  The Seleucid king also got access to the temple treasury to help fund his war efforts.

Although restless, the population was not at rebellion stage until Antiochus decided to sell the role of High Priest to Menelaus, who was not in the hereditary line of Moses’ brother, Aaron.   As a condition of his appointment, Menelaus promised to raise tax revenue.  When he failed, he was summoned to Syria to appear before the king.  While he was away, Jason seized control of the priesthood and attempted to gain control of government.  Upon failing, he fled, and Antiochus reinstated  Menelaus, as High Priest, and slaughtered thousands of rebellious Jews.  The people revolted again, after the king had returned home to Syria, and he came back with his army to suppress them.  He also outlawed the practice of Judaism altogether.  This led to a three year rebellion, led by Judah Maccabee (known as The Hammer), that drove Antiochus from the Kingdom of Judah and created the first independent Jewish state in more than 400 years.

Putin wants to subjugate Ukrainians to a dominant Russian culture…

Again, we see similarities with Vladimir Putin, who wishes to subjugate Ukrainians to a dominant Russian culture, including repressing their Catholic faith in favor of his preferred Russian Orthodox Church.  It’s Ukraine’s Jewish President, Vlodomir Zelenskyy, of the Servant of the People Party, that is uniting his people and standing strong against Russian aggression.

Some might argue with comparing Zelenskyy to Judah Maccabee.  He is not just a hero to Jews, but a modern day hero of humanity.  But, Jews everywhere can and should take pride that it is one of our own that is leading the battle for freedom against the onslaught of fascist totalitarianism.

​Samuel Griswold is the author of the historical novel, True Identity, and the author/publisher of fightingfascism.substack.com.

About the Author
Samuel Griswold is a long-time student of history and world affairs. He uses this knowledge in his writing of historical novels, such as True Identity, and as the publisher and journalist of FightingFascism.substack.com.
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