Staunton, Dec. 4 – In the 19th century, the Ottoman authorities dispatched some Circassians who had been expelled from the Russian Empire to Palestine in hopes that this people would allow them to impose their control on the Bedouin tribes who dominated much of the area.
The Circassians organized three villages, two of which – Kfar Kama and Rehaniya – survive. (The third was wiped by malaria.) They were successful in bringing order to the area and that opened it to Jewish settlement, something neither the Circassians nor the Israelis have forgotten (gorskie.ru/jewish/item/62544-kak-cherkesy-prolozhili-evreyam-dorogu-v-zemlyu-izrailya).
During Israel’s war for independence, the Circassians fought on the side of the Israelis against the Arabs; and they have continued to serve in the Israeli army and security services. But this 5,000-strong community is significant in that it has maintained its national identity while fully integrating into Israeli society.
The Circassian schools in the two villages may be the only place in the world where pupils study Islam in Hebrew; and they are also noteworthy in that these schools mark the anniversary of the Russian genocide and expulsion of the Circassians from their homeland in 1864 every year on May 21.
The Circassians have maintained their language, and many of them after receiving higher educations elsewhere return to these two villages to ensure that this outpost of the Circassian nation survives and flourishes. And they live according to the traditional Adygey Khabze code which commits them to defending the state they live in, in this case, Israel.