ASIA/ISRAEL - Christian population: numerical growth with percentage decrease compared to other religions

Wednesday, 12 January 2022 middle east   local churches   jerusalem   holy places   demography  


Nazareth (Agenzia Fides) - The Christian population of Israel continues the slight numerical growth that has characterized it since the founding of the Jewish state, but also continues its progressive decline in percentage compared to other faith communities - Jews, Muslims and Druze - present in the country. The Israeli Central Statistical Office published these data on Christmas Eve 2021. According to the Israeli Statistics Office, 182,000 Christians currently live in Israel, which corresponds to 1.9 percent of the total population, while the growth rate of the Christian population in the Jewish state in 2020 was 1.4 percent.
Israeli statistics also provide data on the elements that characterize the Christian component from an ethnic, demographic, professional and cultural point of view. At the same time, to properly understand the meaning of the figures provided, it is useful to take into account some key factors conditioning data collection, and to compare the results of the latest surveys with similar statistics provided by Israel in previous years.
If one looks at the entire table of the growth of the various religious communities in the State of Israel since its founding, one finds, for example, that the number of Christians in the Jewish state totaled 34,000 in 1949, in 1970 it was 75,000, in 1990 almost 115,000 and more than 180,000 in 2019.
Over the same period, Israel's Muslim population grew from more than 111,000 (in 1949) to over 1.6 million in 2019. The number of Jews, which was around 1.17 million in 1949, had risen to 6.69 million in 2019. The growth rates of the Christian population in Israel are consistently lower than those of the Jewish and Islamic sections of Israeli society. A certain similarity can only be found with the Druze growth figures, the number of which was less than 15,000 in 1949 and increased to 143,000 in 2019.
According to 2020 data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, 76.7% of Christians in Israel are Palestinian Arabs, and most of them live in the northern region of the country (with more than 21,000 Christians in Nazareth). The majority of non-Arab Christians can be found in the Jaffa and Tel Aviv areas. It should be noted, however, that the Israeli statistics only take into account the Christian citizens who are permanently and legally in the country, excluding from the calculation the tens of thousands of foreign workers present in Israel for more or less long periods of time, and which represent an increasingly important component in the Churches and ecclesial communities of the Holy Land. The non-Arab Christians who reside permanently in Israel have immigrated in the past few decades mainly from the countries of the former Soviet Union to follow Jewish relatives.
In 2020 there were a total of 2,497 new births in Christian families, while the average number of children up to the age of seventeen in a Christian family was 1.93 (the lowest birth rate of any part of Israeli society, considering the average number of children in Jewish families is 2.43 and in Muslim families 2.60). Christians are the component with the highest average level of education, especially among the female part of the population.
According to the Central Statistical Office, 84% of Christians in Israel are "satisfied" with their living conditions. This figure is also interesting in the light of the recent controversy (see Fides, 15/12/2021 and 22/12/2021) that followed the declaration made in mid-December by high-ranking representatives of the churches and ecclesial communities in Jerusalem, in which, among other things, reference was made to the "countless attacks" by radical groups on churches, monasteries and representatives of the clergy and who, behind this violence and desecration, suspected a plan to "expel" the Christian presence from Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 12/1/2022)