Day 2 of our Galil tour started in Kfar Kama, a Circassian village. The Circassians are an ethnic group indigenous to the Caucasus. They call themselves Adyghe (which is also the name of their language) and were given the name Circassian (or Chirkess) by the Russians and Turks. They are known as “white muslims” and when they were conquered by the Russian army in the 19th c., they fled and were dispersed around the world. Currently, the majority of Circassians live in Turkey, but there are diaspora communities in Syria, Jordan, New Jersey, and Israel (obviously). The Adyghe were known for being great warriors (one reason they were welcomed in Turkey, although not good enough to fend off the Russians, sadly) and it holds true to this day as they are proportionally overrepresented in the IDF, given their numbers in Israel (about 4000 of the 6,000,000 worldwide).

Upon arrival at Kfar Kama, we were greeted with a serenade of traditional Circassian music.

We were given a traditional Circassian snack of Haliva, a cheese stuffed pastry, and tea. Then the entertainment moved indoors, where we watched traditional dance.

Traditional Circassian dances often evoke their warrior culture and it is considered shameful for men not to know how to dance.

On a walking tour of the village, we saw homes decorated with the symbols from the Adygean flag evoking their 12 tribes.

The unusual and iconic black & white mosque, Kfar Kama

They were traditionally good horsemen and we heard about a tradition where a young man would have to swoop up a young woman onto the back of his horse as he was riding by if they were to be engaged.

We next went to the Druze village of Peki’in. There is only one Jew left in the village, an old woman, and she has sole access to the key that unlocks the synagogue. She was supposed to let us in (and there was another tour group of Yeshiva girls waiting also), but she was nowhere to be found. Our guide even stood in the middle of the street calling up to what she thought was her apartment. “Hello, we’re to see the synagogue! Do you have the key? Can you let us in?” (in Hebrew, of course).

Flying the Israeli & Druze flags

A view of the outside of the synagogue . . . Never did make it in.

We stopped at a soap & cosmetics factory, Savta Gamila (Grandma Gamila), and met Savta herself. She spoke to us about being a woman business owner, and hiring local people to make her products, but also how her products are sold all over the world. I think she said it was a top seller in Japan. She uses all natural, organic ingredients that are supposed to cure all kinds of skin ailments. Maybe so, maybe so . . .

Savta Gemilah

We ended our tour with a scrumptious lunch at a Druze restaurant. The owner spoke with us about the Druze religion & culture, but couldn’t answer all of our questions because there is a secret component to the religion. We’ve written about it here before. At the end of the meal, he served us a special Druze tea with 20 different ingredients, but which was somehow perfectly clear. It also was supposed to have healing properties. Perhaps, perhaps . . .

Fulbrighters having a Druze meal.