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Christian population growing in Israel, report finds

The Christian population in Israel is growing slightly, according to a report issued at the end of 2022.

The report, released by the Central Bureau of Statistics. found that Israel’s Christian community grew by 2 percent in 2021, representing 1.9 percent of the country’s population. Three-fourths of Christians in Israel are Arab Christians, accounting for 6.9 percent of the Arab population in Israel.

The vast majority of Israeli Christians, 84 percent according to one poll, say they are satisfied with their lives living in an officially Jewish state.

In 2021, the total fertility rate of a Christian woman was an average of 1.77 children per woman, compared with 1.80 in 2019. The number of children per Arab Christian woman was lower still, at 1.68 children per woman.

Most Arab Christians live in Nazareth (21,100), followed by Haifa (16,700), Jerusalem (12,900) and Shefar’am (10,500. The average size of a Christian household was 3.06 people, similar to the size of a Jewish household (3.05) but lower than a Muslim household (4.46).

The average number of children up to age 17 in Christian families with children up to this age is 1.86. Of these Christian families, the average number of children up to age 17 in Arab Christian families is 1.94, smaller than the numbers in Jewish families (2.42) and Muslim families (2.62).

The report also found that 52.9 percent of Arab Christians and 31.2 percent of non-Arab Christians pursued higher education after completing high school, a larger proportion than both the Arab Muslim population (31.2 percent) and the Jewish population (48.2 percent). Christian students seeking a first degree largely were studying musicology (15.7 percent), management information systems (10.5 percent) and food engineering and technology (9.9 percent) in contrast to other students studying for their first degree.

Compared to Muslim students, Christians were less likely to be pursuing degrees in education, business and management sciences, and paramedical studies. However, Christian students were more likely to study social sciences, mathematics, computer sciences and statistics.

The proportion of women among the Christian students was higher than women’s proportion among the total number of students in the advanced degrees: 65.2 percent and 53.1 percent, respectively, of those studying for a third degree, and 73.8 percent and 64.2 percent, respectively, of those studying for a second degree.

Regarding the proportion of Christians participating in the labor force in 2021, 66.3 percent of Christians aged 15 and older (69.2 percent of men and 64.1 percent of women) accounted for the faith group’s participation in the workforce.

Israeli Christians are among the most free in the world. Their brethren in Palesitinan-controlled areas have not fared as well. Bethlehem, once 80 percent Christian, is now below 20 percent as attacks and harassment of Christians grow in areas given over to Palestinian control through decades of peace negotiations.

According to Pew Reseaerch, certain religious practices are very common among Israeli Christians. For example, an overwhelming majority (94%) of Christians in Israel say they have been baptized. Majorities also say they have icons of saints or other holy figures in their homes (81%) and that they have been anointed with holy oil (83%) – a ritual performed annually or in case of illness. A majority (60%) say they fast during Lent. Tithing – that is, giving a percentage of one’s income to the church – is less common among Christians in Israel; 39% say they tithe.

–Dwight Widaman | MV

Photo: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

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