Huberman Circassians

  • Issue: February 1990
  • Designer: A. Berg
  • Stamp size: 40 x 25.7 mm
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

The Circassians come from the north-west Caucasus Mountains, from the plain of the river Kuban. They call themselves the "Adygei' people, a name meaning 'the ideal man. The 'Adygei are descendants of an Aryan race who inhabited the Kuban Plain thousands of years before the advent of Christianity. Until the third century, the Adygei were pagan, believing in gods of nature and agriculture, but were gradually converted to Christianity by missionaries. Islam reached the Adygel in tho sixteenth century and by the middle of the nineteenth century they had all become Sunni Moslems, moderate in their religion, which they regard as entirely separate from their nationality.

The guttural Circassian language was a spoken language only, until the middle of the nineteenth century. Their folklore relates to their life in the Circassian villages in the Caucasus - the re-occurring motifs include courage and valour, patriotism, honesty and virtue.., all of which are expressed in folk stories, legends and ballads recounting the wars against the foe from the North.

Russia's policy of territorial expansion regarded the Caucasus mountains as strategically important, and she had been waging war to capture them since the fourteenth century. In 1858, Russia succeeded in taking them and immediately pursued a policy of "expulsion" towards the Adygei. 900,000 Circassians left for the Ottoman Empire, which was ready to receive them. They settled in the Balkans but in 1878, following an uprising, Bulgaria established its independence and the Circassians were transferred to other parts of the Empire. The majority settled in Turkey, some returned illegally to the Caucasus and others, following religious and material incentives offered by the Turks, came to the Middle East and settled all over the area, including Palestine.

There are today two Circassian villages in Israel: Kafr Kama in the eastern part of the Lower Galilee and Rikhania in the Upper Galilee. Kafr Kama has a population of some 2,000 Circassians, and Rikhania some 600. Kafr Kama has 8,500 dunams of land, of which 1,200 are irrigated and the rest used for dryland farming. The village is run by a duly-elected, democratic municipal council. Rikhania is run by a local committee under the Marom Hagalil Regional Council. Both villages have primary schools where the language of instruction is Hebrew, where Arabic is taught from Grade 3, English from Grade 5, and Circassian only from grade 6 - this despite the fact that the native tongue is Circassian. The villagers earn their livelihood in various branches of the economy: agriculture, the professions, light industry and services.

The good relationship between the two villages finds expression in various forms of cooperation and the exchanging of brides and grooms, and they both do their best to preserve distinctive customs and culture through educational, social and formal activities in school.

The early excellent relationship between the Circassians and the first Jewish settlers in the area, both having European origins, developed and flourished so that in 1947 the members of Kafr Kama decided voluntarily, despite their being Moslem, to join the War of Independece on the Jewish side, and all the men of the village volunteered to join the Israeli army, and fought in taking the country. This volunteering continued until 1956, when, at the request of the village, military service was made mandatory under the law, and since that time all Circassian young men serve in the armed forces of the State of Israel.

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The Circassians in Israel