The Prodigal Daughter

Christine Hon has fought for everything she has achieved, and what she has achieved, and how she has achieved it, is nothing short of extraordinary: Christine is the first Circassian lawyer in Israel. She is also the only woman in her village who owns a private law firm. 

Originating in the Caucasus, many of the Circassian people fled the brutality of Tzarist Russia in the 19th century and found refuge in Galilee, ruled then by the Ottoman Empire. In that same period, many Russian Jewish immigrants also the antisemitic Tzars and arrived in what was then Ottoman Palestine to work the Land. The Circassians shared a common language with the Russian Jews and strong relationships were formed. A few decades later, the Circassians even helped smuggle Jews into the Land under the nose of the ruling British. 

Today, the 4000-strong Israeli Circassian community live in the northern towns of Kfar Kama and Rehaniya. Due to their exotic traditions, these Sunni Muslims are fascinating for many Israelis. They speak Hebrew, Arabic – some speak English – and all speak Adyghe, their own dialect. Loyal to the core, they do mandatory service in the army and were awarded autonomy over their educational system, to separate it from the Arab Muslim curriculum. Their defense and protection of their culture has both ensured their traditions are passed down and also has created a protective and insular community: which does not make life necessarily easy, as Christine Hon found out. 

The second child in a family of five, Christine spent her first tender years with her family in the southern town of Eilat. When they returned to the village, she found the transition hard. Frequently disrupting classes, Christine was eventually asked to leave school. She was transferred to a Jewish school and although she was the only Circassian student, Christine excelled. 

According to the traditions of the conservative Circassians, women marry young and they don’t go out to work. Falling in line, by 21, Christine had already had her first child. Things were tough. Her husband away with the army, and she had a sleepless baby on her hands.  Christine became depressed. Her parents tried to help, but things got harder when she became pregnant again, and the strain was too much: the marriage broke up. 

Step by step, she pulled herself together. Being a single mother was hard enough but out of necessity, Christine had to go to work. None of this made her the “bees knees,” in the community, but Christine went one step further. She enrolled into higher education! Only when the school’s letter of acceptance arrived, did her family find out. Thankfully they were so proud! With their full support, and the news spread throughout the village, Christine did not care. With great resolve she set her sights ahead. For six and a half years, three times a week she drove over 300 kilometers to study law, while maneuvering between being a single mother and working part time. Perseverance paid off. While interning at a law firm in Nazareth, she completed her studies and dissertation on the powers of a Sharia court. 

Christine went on to meet the new love of her life on Facebook. Even though he had a Jewish name, it turned out that Moran was from the other Circassian village! They were married by a Circassian cleric, in full tradition. The ceremony was in the language and the guests were all the Circassian happy villagers! Christine completed her dream and opened an office not far from her home. At the moment she works alone, but she is hopeful that her eldest daughter will soon finish law school and join the business. 

She puts her success down to love: Her traditionally-strong community, may not have understood at first, but they came to accept her for who she is. Just as she is proud to be part of her Circassian community, Israel is proud of Christine and her Circassian people.