Circassians are a small ethnic minority in Israel that has lived in the region since the days of the Ottoman rule. Loyal to the State of Israel, their men serve in the Israeli army, although their youth are educated in a separate school system that respects their culture and heritage. The following article is reprinted with permission from The Caucasus Foundation website.
Circassians arrived at their present location from the Balkans in the year 1880; after 10 years of residence at Marvel, which is at the border of Greece and Bulgaria, they migrated to Palestine. The Ottoman Sultan asked them to reside at Rihania (Reyhaniye) and Kfar-Kama villages. About 1,000 Abedzah Circassians live in Reyhaniye and about 2000 Shapsıg Circassians live in Kfar-Kama, and scores of families live in various Israeli cities and towns near their jobs.
Education and Employment
Kfar-Kama, the larger village, has Jewish settlements as neighbors. Children graduate from village school and continue their education at Jewish schools.
They learn Hebrew, English, and Circassian at school. The National Circassian Alphabet of Caucasus is used in teaching Circassian. Reyhaniye is closer to Arab settlements and children are able to go to both Arab and Jewish schools.
Circassians serve in the army and are employed in the border and regular police forces. Municipal and public services are wide open to the Circassians. Circassians living in these two villages communicate in their own Circassian language.
The Circassian Law (Khabza) regulates the conduct of the Circassians and settles all matters among themselves.
An annual Circassian festival is traditionally held in August at Reyhaniye. Circassian dancers from the world over comes for the celebration. Many non-Circassian guests are invited to the celebration to expand the knowledge of the Circassian culture.