The Circassians are a fascinating part of Israel’s ethnic mosaic. They live in two Israeli villages, 3,000 in Kfar Kama in the Lower Galilee, and 1,000 in Rekhaniya in the Upper Galilee. The
Circassians, who arrived in this country in the 19th century, originated in the northern Caucasus Mountains, the region where Europe and Asia meet. Their neighbors called them Circassians which means mountain dwellers, but their original name is Adigai, meaning noble. The Circassians converted to Islam from Christianity in the mid-17th century, when they encountered the Tatars and the Turks along the silk route through their region. Following defeat in a long war against the Russian Empire, the Circassians were exiled to Ottoman Turkish areas, including the Mediterranean, where they practiced their famed martial skills in the service of the Ottoman Empire.
The village of Kfar Kama is a proud showcase of Circassian culture. The highlight of a visit here is the Circassian Museum, located in a traditional old basalt house. The exhibits bring alive the agricultural roots, language and customs of this community, which is working to meet the challenge of preserving its traditions despite its small numbers, while taking pride in its contribution to the state of Israel. A special treat is a village tour, taking in some of the old preserved homes and hearing colorful tales of the first settlers who arrived here in 1878.
For tours of the Circassian Museum, Kfar Kama and special Circassian cultural events: