The Christian Population Of Israel Is Growing

News Image By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz/Israel 365 News December 27, 2022
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The Christian population in Israel is growing, making the Jewish state the only place in the Middle East in which this is happening. 

Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics released a report on Christmas eve 2022 documenting the status and condition of Christians in Israel.

The total number of Christians living in Israel was approximately 183,000, representing 1.9% of Israel's population. The report went into detail, stating that 75.8% (138,800) of Christians in Israel are Arab, representing 6.9% of the total Arab population in Israel. 

The majority of Arab Christians live in the Northern District and Haifa District (70.2% and 13.6%, respectively). 39% of the non-Arab Christians live in the Tel Aviv District the center of Israel. 36.3% live in the Northern District and in the Haifa district. The localities with the largest Arab Christian population are Nazareth (21,100), Haifa (16,700), Jerusalem (12,900) and Shafaram (10,500).

582 Christian couples were married in Israel in 2020.

24.2% (44,400) of the Christians in Israel were not Arab. The report states that most of these Christians immigrated to Israel since the 1990s under the Law of Return which permitted people with Jewish relatives to become citizens. 39% of the non-Arab Christians live in Tel Aviv. 36.3% live in the Northern District and Haifa. 

In 2021, 2,434 babies were born to Christian women, of which about 72% (1,749) were born to Arab Christian women.

According to the report, the Christian population in Israel increased by 2% in 2021 as compared to an increase of 1.6% for the Jewish population and 2.2% for the Muslim population of Israel. The Christian population increased by 966 due to natural growth and 952 from conversion to Christianity.

Israel is an anomaly in the region as the Christian population in the region is shrinking. 

Christians now make up approximately 5% of the Middle Eastern population, or roughly 15 million Christians, down from 20% in the early 20th century. In Turkey, Christians were targeted for genocide by the Ottomans resulting in well over 3 million deaths and large-scale deportations in the Armenian genocide, Assyrian genocide, Greek genocide, the Dersim Massacre, and Great Famine of Mount Lebanon.

The Syrian Civil War and the rise of ISIS have greatly increased violence against Christians in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, the Christian population has dropped from 1.5 million (10 percent of the population) in 2011 to 300,000 today. In Iraq, the number of Christians has declined from about 800,000 in 2003 to about 400,000. 

Christians in the Middle East face persecution, in various grades, depending on the residence country. This has increased considerably since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The rise of hate speech against Christians in state media and by religious leaders, especially in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, has compromised the safety of Christians and created social intolerance. 

In Saudi Arabia there are strict limitations on all forms of expression of Christianity including public acts of worship. In 2017 a total of 99 Egyptian Christians were killed by extremist groups, with 47 killed on Palm Sunday in Tanta and Alexandria. Egyptian Christians were continuously targeted by extremist groups during 2017 and 2018. 

The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of "the sword" or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines. An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of church buildings and other church symbols.

About 173,000 Arab Palestinian Christians lived in the Palestinian Authority (including Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip) in the 1990s representing about 18% of the population. Over the last years, unlike the increase trend in the Christian population of Israel, the number of Christians in the Palestinian Authority has declined severely and is currently estimated to be about 75,000, about 1% of the population. 

Before Hamas took control of Gaza, an estimated 2,000-3,000 Christians lived there. The Christian population is currently estimated at around 1,000. This demographic threat is most pronounced in Bethlehem. 

Revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem was historically mostly Christian but that has changed drastically. Bethlehem came under Muslim Jordanian rule during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and was later captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. 

Since the 1995 Oslo Accords, Bethlehem has been administered by the Palestinian Authority as part of Area A of the West Bank. In 1947, Christians made up 85% of the population but by 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem had declined to only 16% and is believed to have continued to shrink since that time.

Originally published at Israel 365 - reposted with permission

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