Israel’s Christian community grows, 84% happy with life here – report

Israel’s Christian community grew 1.4% in 2020 to some 182,000 people, 84% of whom say they are satisfied with life in the country, the Central Bureau of Statistics said in a report released before Christmas.

The report, released on Tuesday, came days after Christian leaders in the Holy Land warned that their communities were at risk of being driven out of the region by extremist Israeli groups, and called for dialogue to preserve their presence.

However, statistics released by the CBS painted a different picture, indicating that the community was growing and thriving, with particularly high rates of higher education compared to the rest of the population.

According to CBS, Christians make up about 1.9% of Israel’s population and grew by 1.4% in 2020.

Christians make up 7% of Israel’s Arab population and 76.7% of Israel’s Christians are Arabs. The largest Christian Arab population centers in Israel are Nazareth (21,400), Haifa (16,500), and Jerusalem (12,900).

Among non-Arab Christians, the majority lived in the Tel Aviv area.

Statistics revealed that Arab Christian women had some of the highest education rates in the country.

People enjoy a Christmas festival at the New Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City on December 16, 2021. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

It showed that 53.1% of Arab Christians and 35.4% of non-Arab Christians obtained a bachelor’s degree after finishing high school, compared to 34% of the total number of high school graduates in the Arab school system and 47.2 % of all high school graduates in Hebrew education.

“The proportion of women among Christian students was higher than the proportion of women among the total number of students in all degrees and especially in higher degrees: 64.1% and 53.2%, respectively, of those who were studying for a doctorate, and 72.9% and 63.8%, respectively, of those studying for a master’s,” the report said.

The report also found fewer Christians registering for unemployment benefits compared to Jewish and Muslim populations.

According to the CBS, 84% of Christians are satisfied with their life: 24% answered “very satisfied” and 60% were “satisfied”.

Other details released in the report included that 803 Christian couples married in Israel in 2019 with the average age of first marriage for Christian grooms at 30.3 and for Christian brides at 26.7.

In 2020, 2,497 babies were born to Christian women, with an average of 2.04 children per family.

The findings contrast with recent statements by Christian leaders.

Prof. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land of the Catholic Church and custodian of Christian holy sites in the Holy Land, wrote in an op-ed piece published Saturday by Britain’s Daily Telegraph that “our presence is precarious and our future is in jeopardy. danger”.

An American pilgrim walks to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem’s Old City, November 30, 2021 (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Last week, the patriarchs and church leaders of Jerusalem issued a joint statement also warning of the danger posed by radical groups which they say aim to “diminish the Christian presence”.

Patton wrote that in recent years the lives of many Christians have been made “unbearable by radical grassroots groups with extremist ideologies.”

“It seems their goal is to liberate the Old City of Jerusalem from its Christian presence, even the Christian Quarter,” he said.

Holy sites, including churches, have been desecrated and vandalized, while crimes have been committed against priests, monks and worshippers, Patton charged.

“These radical groups represent neither the government nor the people of Israel. But as with any extremist faction, a radical minority can all too easily burden the lives of many people, especially if their activities go unchecked and their crimes go unpunished.

Prof. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, Custodian of Christian Holy Places in the Holy Land on behalf of the Catholic Church (Courtesy)

Patton wrote that while Christians once made up 20% of Jerusalem’s population, today they make up less than 2%. He appealed to the world for support “so that we can continue to preserve the rich diversity of this Holy Land”.

Further warnings came from Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in an article written jointly with Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem Hosam Naoum, published in Britain’s Sunday Times. They said the article was inspired by last week’s statement from the churches of Jerusalem, which Welby, in a tweet, called an “unprecedented statement by the patriarchs and church leaders of Jerusalem on the future Christians in the Holy Land”.

In their article, Welby and Naoum wrote that there is a “concerted attempt to bully and drive out” Christians.

The archbishops said the increase in the number of Israeli settler communities, coupled with restrictions on movement imposed by the security fence that Israel built to thwart terror attacks from the West Bank, had “deepens the isolation of Christian villages “.

As a result, the two men wrote, there is “a steady stream of Palestinian Christians leaving the Holy Land to seek lives and livelihoods elsewhere.”

The archbishops’ article prompted a protest from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which focused on some of the claims they made about what is causing the decline of the Christian presence in Israel.

Board chair Marie van der Zyl wrote a letter to Welby expressing “great regret” for his published remarks and calling for a meeting to discuss the “deeply troubling” aspects of his article, said reported the Jewish Chronicle.

Stuart Weiner contributed to this report

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