Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his Christmas greetings to Christians, highlighted the historical and present support of Israel by Christians on Tuesday while saying that his country is “proud of our Christian friends.” One day earlier, a new report on statistics in Israel showed that the number of Christians in Israel is growing—a contrast to the rest of the Middle East.
“The State of Israel would not have come into being if it weren’t for the avid support of Christians in the 19th century, in the 20th century as well and in the 21st century,” said Netanyahu on December 24 in comments released by his office. “We know that we have no better friends around the world than our Christian friends. So thank you. Thank you all for standing up with Israel, standing up for the truth.”
In his greeting, Netanyahu highlighted the commonalities between Christianity and the Jewish faith and tradition. “The State of Israel is the culmination of so many prophecies and our deepest held values. We share the common civilization, the Judeo-Christian civilization, that has given the world the values of freedom, individual liberty, the sanctity of life and the belief in one G-d.”
Meanwhile, the 2019 numbers on Christians in Israel, published on December 23 by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, show that their population numbers approximately 177,000 people, or roughly 2% of Israel’s total population. In 2018—the most recent year provided in the report—the population grew by 1.5%.
This contrasts against the Middle East as a whole, where the Christian population has been devastated over the last century. Then-British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt noted last July that Christians had plunged from 20% of the Middle East population 100 years ago to less than 5% today, according to comments published on the United Kingdom’s government website.
And not only are Christians growing in numbers in Israel, they are maximizing their educational opportunities as well. The report shows that a higher percentage of Christian Arabs in Israel qualified for university studies than the other major religious groups, while Israeli Christian women are making outsized educational accomplishments.
70.9% of Christian Arab students entitled to a matriculation certificate also managed to meet university entrance requirements, the CBS report noted, slightly ahead of Hebrew students, for whom 70.6% did so. Druze students were at 63.7% and Muslims were at 45.2%.
Among those pursuing secondary education among Christians, many of them are women. The report said that a sizable 74.4% of all Christian students studying toward a second degree were women, who also comprised 62.8% of all Christians working toward a third degree. In contrast, 63.1% of all students studying for a second degree were women.
While those numbers are good, Christians are lagging behind in terms of young people when compared to their counterparts in Israel. The average number of children aged 0-17 years old in Christian families with children is 1.87 kids—notably smaller than both Jewish (2.37 children) and Muslim families (2.77 children). That may partly explain why the increase in population for Christians in Israel dipped slightly in 2018 from the year before—a 2.2% increase in 2017 versus the aforementioned 1.5% last year.
Most of the Christians in Israel are Arab—77.5%—the majority of whom live in the northern part of Israel in cities such as Nazareth. Of those Christians who are not Arab, the largest bloc—41.3% of the total—live in the Tel Aviv and Central Districts.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, December 26, 2019)