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).
While 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
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
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.
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
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
In a nation that is often described as "post-Christian," a spark
of revival might be on the horizon.