In the Jewish State of Israel, there are four non-Jewish minorities who have lived among us for centuries. The Christian and Arab Muslims, the Armenians, the Druze are well known. Less well known is the Circassian community numbering about four thousand families.
The Circassians were a North Caucasus ethnic group who were expelled from their homes and lands by the Russians after the long Russian-Circassian war in 1864. They were exiled to territories in the Ottoman Empire, settling primarily in Turkey, Syria, and Palestine (both Jordan and Israel).
Since the founding of the Hashemite monarchy, the Circassians have been the only official police guards in the royal palace of the Jordanian kings. They are fiercely dedicated to the Hashemite royal family.
Originally the Circassians were a Christian people but many converted to Islam between the 16th and 19th centuries, influenced by the Tatars of Crimea, the Ottoman Turks and the Persians.
They are famous world-wide for their beautiful carpets which they have been hand-making for a thousand years, featuring birds, animals and plants and flowers.
The first Circassians settled in present-day Israel in 1873 and built the village of Rehaniya. In 1876 they built a second village, Kfar Kama, in the Galilee.
In addition to their own native language, they speak fluent Hebrew and are extremely loyal to the State.
Relations with the Circassians have been excellent since the beginning of pre-State Jewish settlement in Palestine. They were friendly with the Russian-speaking Jews of the First Aliyah who built their settlements in the Galilee and they aided the illegal immigration of Jews from Lebanon during the British Mandate and protected them by offering shelter in their two villages.
Since 1958, the Circassian elders have made a rule that every Circassian male is required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces upon reaching the age of 18. Many serve in the national police force, the Border police, and the Israel Prison Service.
They maintain their own school system in order to preserve their ancient language and culture to pass it along to each new generation.
The do not intermarry and it is recorded that 90% of the males return to their homes in their two villages after completion of military service.
They are very devoted to the security of Israel and have a loving relationship with Israeli Jews.
We owe a debt of gratitude to this little-known community. Visitors to Kfar Kama and Rehaniya are welcomed with warm hospitality.
We are fortunate to have such a fine minority community of Israeli citizens living among us.