By Tom Brennan
Perhaps you’ve seen antique photos of sturdy warriors, high fur hats and cartridge pockets on their coats, sabres raised as they charge across a field of battle. These are the Circassians, the “mountain dwellers”. In Russia past these warriors struck fear into enemies far and wide. These warriors had converted from Christianity to Islam in the 1600’s under Tartar and Turkish influence. When they waged war against Russia they were exiled to the Balkan areas of the Ottoman Empire and they settled in two villages. In the late 1800’s they migrated to today’s Israel and set up two villages, Kfar Kama and Rekhaniya.
The Circassians are a small in number group with about 3,000 living in Kfar Kama and 1,000 in Rekhaniya. They are Sunni Muslims and retain their own culture and language. They are non-Arabs and proud citizens of Israel. They have their own schools which teach the Circassian Language, Hebrew and English and they serve with distinction in the IDF, border police and security police. Israel considers them a separate group within Israel and they are allowed to govern themselves under Israeli Law and Circassian Law (Khabza).
The villages are cultural masterpieces of 19th century Russian and Ottoman societies and Kfar Kama has a museum and the village itself welcomes visitors from around the world for a glimpse into a fascinating past. In August each year a Circassian Festival is held in Rekhaniya that celebrates the culture and history of the “mountain dwellers” and their home in Israel.
Israel is able impart on its varied populations a sense of belonging that few states and certainly no Arab states can match. By allowing cultures to exist that are not Jewish and are still considered an essential part of the fabric of Israel, the cultures make The Land a rich cultural environment an a genuine oasis of freedom in a region noted for persecution of minorities and now death and exile as penalties for being different.
Of particular interest to Christians is the incredible mix of cultures within Israel. In the 1980’s and ongoing today is a massive Russian immigration. Seeing an ancient group of Russians living in peaceful productivity, fiercely loyal to Israel, and still retaining an ancient culture will demonstrate how perhaps only Israel can accommodate what would seem to many to be contradictions and conflicts ,ethical and religious. When in Israel on your tour or journey be sure to visit these colorful and vibrant people, you will hear tales of warriors, thundering hooves and brave deeds.Share this page with your friends
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