MembersA Glimpse Into Israel’s Circassian Muslim Community

“All our men serve in the army, and we love Israel. We feel Israeli in every way. Yet, we are Circassian and are rooted in the country.”

By Rachel Avraham |
Photo: Creative Commons

There are presently 13 Circassian villages in the Golan Heights and two in Northern Israel, which are called Kfar Kama and Rehaniya. In a Zoom event for ESRA, a network that helps English-speakers fully integrate into Israeli society, our guide Anat Harel explained that the Circassians “are a mountain people that live by the sea.” According to Harel, there are 4,000 Circassians in Israel today, who have good relations with the Jewish community.

“The Byzantines converted them to Christianity, but in Ottoman times many of them became Muslim,” Harel stressed. “In the 13th and 14th centuries, they had their own kingdom in Circassia along the Black Sea.” After their homeland of Circassia was invaded by the Russians, she noted that the Ottomans settled them near Druze, Christian and Kurdish areas, as a counterweight loyal to them. Thus, the Circassians could collect taxes from the surrounding areas.

Aibek Nabso, who is the director of the Circassian Heritage Center, added that there are six million Circassians living in the Diaspora today, who speak a language that is presently endangered: “It is an...

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