Israeli Christian population growing, says Central Bureau of Statistics

As Israeli Christians belonging to Western church denominations prepare to celebrate Christmas on Sunday night and Monday, the Central Bureau of Statistics has released data on the country’s Christian community.

According to the CBS, around 187,900 Christians live in Israel, composing 1.9% of the population. This represents 1.3% growth from the year before.

The Christian population has been on the rise for at least the last two years. In 2021, the population grew by 1.4% to 182,000, and in 2022, there was about 2% growth to 185,000, according to the CBS.

Three-quarters (75.3%) are Arab Christians who make up 6.9% of the total Arab population.

This contrasts with most countries in the Middle East, where Christian populations are declining, and there is “horrifying growth” of Christian persecution. This is according to the organization Open Doors, which puts out an annual “World Watch List” of where Christians suffer very high or extreme levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.

Persecution of Christians in Middle Eastern countries this year

Among the top 50 countries in which Christians were persecuted in 2023 were Yemen, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern and Muslim-majority countries. Israel was not on the list.

Picking up Christmas trees in the old city. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

There were 815 Christian weddings in 2021, the CBS said. The average Christian groom is 30.7 years old and the bride 27.4 – ages that are higher than the average among Jews and Muslims.

These couples often tend to have fewer children than their Muslim Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Israeli counterparts.

In 2022, some 2,343 babies were born to Christian women, including about 73% (1,704 infants) who were born to Arab Christian women.

In 2022, the total fertility rate was an average of 1.68 children per Christian woman. The number of children per Arab Christian woman was slightly lower, at 1.62 children per woman.

In general, the 2023 fertility rate in Israel is trending at 2.931 births per woman, a 0.78% decline from 2.954 the year before, which itself was lower than in 2021.

IN CONTRAST, a 2022 report by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, the fertility rate among the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population in Israel was 6.6 children per woman, the rate among the religious population was 3.9, and the rate among the secular population was 2.0 children.

Where do Christians live?

The vast majority of Arab Christians reside in the Northern District (70.2%) and the Haifa District (13.6%). More than a third of non-Arab Christians (36.5%) live in those districts, and slightly more (38.7%) tend to live in the center of the country and Tel Aviv.

The localities with the most prominent Arab Christian populations are Nazareth (20,800), Haifa (16,800), Jerusalem (13,000), and Shfaram (10,600).

According to the CBS, Christian students tend to be educated, with 84.1% of the sector’s 12th-grade students having become eligible for a matriculation certificate in 2022. More than half (55.1%) of the Arab Christians continued their studies toward a bachelor’s degree within eight years of graduating high school, compared to only about a third (34.6%) of the total number of high-school graduates in the Arab school system and less than half (48.1%) in the Hebrew education.

Representation among Christian students was highest in musicology (16.0%), traffic and transportation engineering (10.9%), and management information systems (10.7%), according to the bureau.

Nearly three-quarters (70.5%) of Christians over the age of 15 participated in the labor force in 2022, the CBS said. This included 73.5% of men and 68.2% of women. The percentage drops to 62.2% when looking specifically at Christian Arabs.

 In 2023, Israel had an overall monthly rate of participation in the labor force of between 60% and 65%, the CBS showed.

Approximately 16,200 Christians – a rate of 87.7 per 1,000 persons (8.77%) – were registered at the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry in 2022, the bureau said. At the same time, around 3,900 Christians – a rate of about 21.7 per 1,000 people (2.17%) – were placed in social service frameworks.

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