The Circassians are an ethnic minority who originally came from the Caucasus from an area along the Black sea. They are referring to themselves as “Adyghe” which means a complete noble person. The name refers to all of the 12 tribes of the Adyghe. In Israel and the region they are known as “Cherkess” which was given to them by the Mongols as they were invading the Caucasus and fighting Adyghe. “cher” in Mongolian means a soldier and “kess” means slayer, the soldier slayers. On the 6th century they gradually accepted Christianity and In the 16th they gradually converted to Islam.
Caucasusian People? How Did They Get Here?
So how come that caucasusian people from the shores of the Black sea who were known to be brave fighters ended up in small villages in the Galil?
At the 18th century Russia started invading the circassin land and until the mid of the 19th century the Circassians lost their independent and lost around 600,000 people by massacres and starvation. they were expelled to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were welcoming those people who were Muslims and were known to be good soldiers.
There are more communities in the countries of the Middle East, and some small communities around the world. Biggest community is in Turkey and the total number of Circassians around the world is estimated as 6 million.
Circassians in Israel
The Circassians arrived in the land in 1873. They chose to live in the Galil because the scenery of the mountains reminded them of the Caucasus. They were speaking only Russian and the Adyghe language and had a hard time communicating with the Arabs around them. On the other hand, they developed ties and found a common language with some of the Jews in the area who emigrated from Russia. The “ha-Shomer”(the guard) organization, the first armed Jewish organization adopted the traditional Circassians hat.
In a way, the Circassians identify with the Jewish people as they see themselves as a nation that was expelled from their homeland and preserving the hope of returning there one day as the Jews did.
At the beginning, there was tension between the Jews and the Circassians as they were in a conflict with which side to identify, the Arabs because of their shared religion or with the Jews.
Today the Circassians are citizens of the state and serve in the armed forces. Many of them choose to make a career in those fields. They speak the Adyghe language, Hebrew, and Arabic.
They live in 2 small communities, one is in the village of Rihaniya in the upper Galil which habitat around 1000 people. It’s in a mountain area next to Alma cave. Other community lives in Kfar Kama.