Christian population grows slowly in Israel

About 80 percent of Christians living in Israel are Arabs.

January 9, 2012 | Web First
By Judith Sudilovsky | Ecumenical News International

Christians have the lowest growth rate among the Israeli population, according to an Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics report released on Jan. 6.

According to the report, the Christian growth rate of 0.9 percent compares to the Jewish rate of 1.7 percent and the 2.7 percent growth rate among Muslims. Christian Arabs have a growth rate of one percent while the rate among non-Arab Christians is 0.7 percent.

About 154,000 Christians live in Israel, constituting 2 percent of the population, according to the bureau.

The percentage of Christians in Israel has remained relatively stable since the mid-1980s, noted Wadie Abunassar, director of the International Center for Consultations and a consultant for the Jerusalem Center for Christian-Jewish relations.

About 80 percent of Christians living in Israel are Arabs, with the remainder mainly Christians who immigrated to Israel with Jewish members of their families under the Law of Return, which allows any proven Jewish person to immigrate to Israel, and their children born in Israel.

The estimated birth rate for Christian women is also the lowest among the religious groups. The average number of children expected to be born to a Christian woman is 2.1, compared to a Muslim woman (3.8), a Jewish woman (3.0) and a Druze woman (2.5).

But though their relative numbers in Israeli society are low, Christian Arab students consistently have the highest success rates on matriculation examinations for certificates that meet the admission requirements for universities compared to other sectors of Israeli society, including Muslim, Druze and Jewish students.

According to the report, in the 2010 school year, 63 percent of Christian 12th grade students earned a matriculation certificate compared with 46 percent of Muslims, 55 percent of Druze, and 58 percent of Jewish students.

--Jan. 9, 2012

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