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Under Syrian Rule

Under Syrian Rule


More than 2000 years ago there was a time when the land of Israel was part of the Syrian-Greek Empire, dominated by Syrian rulers of the dynasty of the Seleucids.

In order to relate the story that led up to Chanukah, we shall start with Antiochus III, the King of Syria, who reigned from 3538 to 3574 (222-186 B.C.E.). He had waged war with King Ptolemy of Egypt over the possession of the Land of Israel. Antiochus III was victorious and the Land of Israel was annexed to his empire. At the beginning of his reign he was favorably disposed toward the Jews and accorded them some privileges. Later on, however, when he was beaten by the Romans and compelled to pay heavy taxes, the burden fell upon the various peoples of his empire who were forced to furnish the heavy gold that was required of him by the Romans. When Antiochus died, his son Seleucus IV took over, and further oppressed the Jews.

Added to the troubles from the outside were the grave perils that threatened Judaism from within. The influence of the Hellenists (people who accepted idol-worship and the Syrian way of life) was increasing. Yochanan, the High Priest, foresaw the danger to Judaism from the penetration of Syrian-Greek influence into the Holy Land. For, in contrast to the ideal of outward beauty held by the Greeks and Syrians, Judaism emphasizes truth and moral purity, as commanded by G-d in the holy Torah. The Jewish people could never give up their faith in G-d and accept the idol-worship of the Syrians.

Yochanan was therefore opposed to any attempt on the part of the Jewish Hellenists to introduce Greek and Syrian customs into the land. The Hellenists hated him. One of them told the King’s commissioner that in the treasury of the Temple there was a great deal of wealth.

The wealth in the treasury consisted of the contributions of "half a shekel" made by all adult Jews annually. That was given for the purpose of the sacrifices on the altar, as well as for fixing and improving the Temple building. Another part of the treasury consisted of orphans’ funds which were deposited for them until they became of age. Seleucus needed money in order to pay the Romans. He sent his minister Helyodros to take the money from the treasury of the Temple. In vain did Yochanan, the High Priest, beg him not to do it. Helyodros did not listen and entered the gate of the Temple. But suddenly, he became pale with fright. The next moment he fainted and fell to the ground. After Helyodros came to, he did not dare enter again.

Excerpted from The Complete Story of Chanukah by Dr Nissan Mindel, published by Kehot
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Discussion (57)
October 25, 2013
To clarify history of the region of when this festival of lights took place.
The ancient Greek Empire broke into 4 segments controlled by the 4 Generals of Alexander the Great, as prophesied by Daniel the Prophet. The Selecuids went to war against the northern part of that empire and won. This region includes the current countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Kuwait. Antiochus's son Antiochus 1 (the Madman) was Given the Syrian and Assyrian Providence along with Israel. It was at this time that Israel revolted against Antiocus 1 and eventually won freedom for a while.
December 11, 2012
They wanted to kill us, we killed them, now let's eat...
Almost... we did not really kill them; we killed ourselves, with self hatred, with brother hatred, with too many groups and ideas and rivalries within this small group that suppose to be an example to the world. For me, self hating Jews is the real story of anything and anytime, from early history (or known stories) of any Patriarch's descendants to the rivalry of groups within the siege city of Jerusalem, via Torquemada of middle ages to Chomsky's and Friedman's of today... So, yes, we survived (at what cost?)...
San Diego
December 9, 2012
Civil War of the Jews Too!
Also Chanukah celibrates the Jewish civil war between the Greekified Jews and those in the minority who remained orthodox. The Maccabi brothers and their followers also won political battles within the Jewish ranks and managed to force the Greekified Jews back into the orthodox fold. Quite a few must have died in this civil war, but this side of the story is not properly explained and without this internal victory there would be no continuous Jewish thread running through our history. If you disagree with this I would like to see your comments below.
David Chester
Petach Tikva
December 7, 2010
accumulating knowledge with Chabad on line
Thank you for your factual religious, history and spiritual lessons, which indeed have the ability to unite us all as we reflect on the past and notice how many silly mistakes man has made, esp. the perennial biased persecution of the Jews. Who will hear & forgive the persecutors' guilty prayers???
mark alcock
Dbn, SA
December 6, 2010
Thank You For The Lesson
As a Christian living in the 21st century I found it important to learn more about the history of the people that gave birth to the Christian Religion. Thankfully I found this site and have gained good information and understanding of Chanukah. Having lived in New York for many years, reared by a mother who enjoyed living and working with Jewish families as far back as the 1940s and having many Jewish friends and colleagues of my own I thank you for the opportunity youve provided in posting this wonderful information. Most Sincerely and Most Respectfully,
Harvey Elwood Jr
Orangeburg, South Carolina
December 20, 2008
Right on!
It kills me that the majority of people (Jews and Gentiles) don't know the real background of Hanukah. To most it is all about the eight days of light.
I've spent many years debunking the myths and misunderstandings of one of the holidays that best illlustrate the reason behind many of our holidays: They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat!

Happy Chanukah all!
Beverly Kurtin
Hurst, TX
December 6, 2007
Syria, Not Assyria
Assyria was known as Ashur in Hebrew, and it was located in much of what is now Iraq. It was the kingdom that conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled the Ten Tribes in 722 BCE, centuries before the Chanukah story. The Assyrians were in turn conquered by the Chaldeans/Babylonians and ceased to exist as an independent empire. The Babylonians were themselves conquered by the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great. This introduced Hellenism to the Middle East, planting the roots of the Jewish Hellenists in the Land of Israel. When Alexander died his empire was divided among his generals, who often fought amongst themselves - the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria - the same general region that includes today's modern Syria, parts of Iraq, and southeastern Turkey - for control of the region. The Seleucids were the dynasty that included Antiochus IV Epiphanes, persecutor of the Jews and villain of the Chanukah story.
New York, NY
December 6, 2007
Isn't the name Assyria? I assume this isn't the same as the modern country Syria. The history of the Maccabee campaign against Antiochus is very complicated. Antiochus was one of the generals of Alexander the Great (or a decendant of one) who was given Egypt as his kingdom after Alexander's death. The Romans expelled him from Egypt, so he seems to have taken out his frustration on the Jews of Jerusalem. I seem to remember that the Roman general Pompey the Great finally defeated Antiochus and ended the old Selecuid Empire (named after another of Alexander's generals).
Pembroke Pines, FL
December 6, 2007
Syrian??? What Syrian?
The article title implies that Jews won a war over Syria (of today);.
The victory was over the ancient Greeks. The Northern part, The Seleucid Dynasty.
The name Syria is irrelevant and missleading.
San Diego, CA
November 20, 2007
As a Gentile believer in the God of Israel and His coming Messiah, the story of Chanukah adds to the reason I love, respect and honour the Jewish people who laid down their lives to prtect the place of God's presence. Celebrating the Feast of Dedication or Lights has enriched my life.
Ontario, canada
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