Report declares thriving Israeli Christian population

Sunday, December 30, 2012
Michael F. Haverluck (

Almost 65 years after Jews who were dispersed around the world returned to their homeland ― following a departure that lasted nearly two millennia ― a report released by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) confirms that the Christian population in the Jewish nation is alive and well, despite the nation's more dominant Jewish and Muslim religions, growing to 158,000 (roughly two percent of the total population).

Israeli flagWhile thousands of Christians celebrated Christmas among various observances taking place across the Promised Land, a CBS statistical breakdown divulged that 80 percent of the Christians living in Israel are Arab. The remaining 20 percent are reported to be mostly comprised of immigrants from the former Soviet Union (USSR) who moved to the nation under the Law of Return ― a program granting individuals with a Jewish grandparent Israeli citizenship. And despite the firmly rooted Christian origins of the holiday celebrating Christ's birth, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a Christmas greeting to Israel's eight-million inhabitants that touted a message of religious pluralism.

Also highlighted in the demographics unleashed this Christmas is the fact that the Christian sector of Israeli society represents the highest high school graduation rate (64 percent), with Israeli Jews comprising 59 percent and Muslim Israelis registering a lower 48 percent.

Correspondingly, it is noted in the report that 10.2 percent of Christian Arabs are studying for degrees in the field of medicine, whereas only 4.6 percent of students in the general population are seeking such degrees, indicating that a higher percentage of Arab Christians are pursuing degrees in the field of medicine than the rest of the population in Israel.

Ironically, the recently released statistical update indicates that Nazareth ― the hometown (not birthplace) of Jesus Christ ― is the city with Israel's largest Christian population (22,400), as most Christian Arabs are reported to live in northern part of the nation. Haifa (14,400 inhabitants), Jerusalem (11,700 residents) and Shfaram (with 9,400 Israeli citizens) are next in line.

Bible with crossGrasshoppers amongst giants

Although the Christian population in Israel is growing, it is doing so at a slower rate than any other sector of society. With the largest religious sector of Israel increasing by 1.8 percent (nearly six-million, or 75 percent, of Israel's eight-million population ascribe to the Jewish faith) and 1.6-million Muslim adherents (21 percent of all Israelis) increasing by a rate of 2.5 percent, the growth of Christians (158,000 or 2 percent) trails the pack at the lowest rate of 1.3 percent.

And to what can the lowest growth rate be attributed? Even though one sole factor cannot determine this figure, women's childbearing rates can shine some light on this phenomenon.

While Christian women, on average, have 2.2 children, Jewish women average 3. Muslim women produce the highest number of offspring, averaging 3.5.

Among the three religious groups, Christians are also the oldest in Israel, with only 30.1 percent of them being in the age group of 19 or under, as opposed to 33.5 percent of Jews in this category. The youngest group -- Muslim Israelis -- register with 48.7 percent of their population being 19 years of age and under.

With only two percent of the Israeli population representing the Christian faith, Christianity is not the most popular when it comes to mainstream culture and belief systems. As a result, the Christian sector finds employment harder to come by in the predominantly Jewish nation.

Israeli Christians have an employment rate of 54 percent, with men at 63.8 percent and women at 45.3 percent, while the national average is much higher (75 percent for men and 66 percent for women). Christian Arabs, in particular, have an even harder time finding work, as their employment rate is under the 50-percent level at 48 percent (59.5 percent for men and 37.7 percent for women).

Despite the relatively humble number of Christians inhabiting the Holy Land, Israel's number-one industry -- tourism -- is firmly rooted in its Christian historical sites, which point to a Messiah (Jesus) whom both of Israel's most dominant religions (Judaism and Islam) reject.

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