The Christian Community of Israel | MercatorNet
A few months ago, I reported on the Pew Research Center report on Israel titled “Israeli Society Religiously Divided” (see here and here). In these articles, I have extensively examined the differences in religious practice and political views between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. This discussion largely divided the population into Muslims and Jews and subsumed the very small Druze and Christian minorities. Today, I thought I’d revisit the report and provide some of the interesting insights from the Israeli Christian community.
Christians make up a very small part of Israel’s population of around 8 million. Only 2% of Israel’s adult population is Christian, a lower percentage than the Middle East-North Africa region’s average of 4%. (The Druze also make up 2% of Israel’s population, while 1% are neither Jews, Muslims, Druze, nor Christians.) Despite its small numbers, the Christian community in the land in which Christ lived, died, and is resurrected is of particular interest. . So what’s interesting about the Pew Center report?
- The vast majority of Israeli Christians are ethnically Arab. This is also true of the Druze population of Israel. So when we talk about “Israeli Jews” and “Israeli Arabs”, we must remember that the latter group is not only Muslim (although it is predominantly Muslim) but also Christian and Druze.
- As noted in this previous blog post, Christians are less religious than Israeli Muslims, but more religious than Israeli Jews. While 68% of Muslims say religion is very important to them personally and only 30% of Jewish Israelis say the same, Christians fall in the middle with 57% considering religion to be personally important. (Similar trends are seen in the figures for daily prayer and weekly church service attendance and can be found in the previous blog post.)
- Certain religious practices are almost universal among Israeli Christians. 94% were baptized, while 83% were anointed with holy oil. 81% have icons at home while 60% fast during Lent. Paying a percentage of income to church is less popular: only 39% say they tithe.
- Christians are also relatively insular in terms of friend groups and their view of interfaith marriage. The Pew Research Center reports that:
“A large majority of Christians say that all (21%) or most (65%) of their close friends are Christians. Christians are also almost universally married to other Christians, and they are uncomfortable with the idea of their child marrying a Muslim or a Jew. About nine in ten Christians say they would be “not too” comfortable (9%) or “not at all” comfortable (79%) if their child married a Jew, and eight in ten (80 %) say they would be uncomfortable if a Muslim married into the family.
- 72% of Israeli Christians agree with the statement that “Israel cannot be a democracy and a Jewish state at the same time”. This is a larger proportion than that of Israeli Muslims who agree with this view (63%). Distrust of the Israeli state and its policies seems to run even deeper in Christian communities than in Muslim communities. More Christians than Muslims think the Israeli government is not making a sincere effort to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians (80% vs. 72%). More Christians think continued Jewish settlement building in the West Bank harms Israel’s security (79% vs. 61%). Finally, more Christians than Muslims think the United States supports Israel too much (86% vs. 75%).