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Circassian villages

Kama


The Galilean village of Kama is home to 3,000 members of the Circassian people. Alongside Rehaniya, lying some 35 miles to the north, it is one of only two Circassian settlements in Israel. Unlike its sister village (which is run by a local committee) Kama is a local council. This makes Kama the only Circassian settlement in the world enjoying a large measure of self government. The village site was inhabited as far back as the Roman Period, and its current houses are built atop historic structures that tell of its ancient importance as a regional center of commerce and culture. In 1876, following the expulsion of the Circassians from the Caucasus, a group of exiles settled the village. Being entirely foreign to the region their early days were ones of great hardship. However, after a relatively short period their relationship with their neighbors - mainly Bedouin tribes - improved, largely due to their wide knowledge and skill in construction and other professions. The villagers constructed a mill and opened the first - and at the time the only - local market; soon they opened a second mill. The village soon became a hub for its neighboring settlements. Notwithstanding their integration into mainstream Israeli society and engagement in ongoing state affairs, the Circassians adhere to their own culture and tradition. Circassian folklore is rich in mythological tales, traditional music and original dances, inspired by traditional wooing traditions.
The Circassian language, once spoken fluently by all members of the community, is sadly undergoing a process of decline. It has not developed with time due to the initial hardships that befell the community. As people’s minds were troubled with the challenges of daily life in a strange land the language gradually absorbed Turkish, Arabic and Hebrew words. The Circassians marry within their community but uphold free rather than arranged marriages, which require the consent of both parties. Prior to marriage relationships consist of conversation only. The tradition of young men asking parents for their daughters’ hands in marriage has survived, albeit in a rather symbolic form. Today the village consists of three “rings”, the innermost being the old village nucleus and the two outer ones being more modern. The community holds education in the highest esteem, with many young people continuing their studies in institutions of higher learning.
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