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Israeli Christians Flourishing in Education but Falling in Number


by Edward Pentin |  January 5, 2012

Palestinian Christians processing through the streets of Jerusalem. (photo: J. Kraj)

Latest figures from Israel's statistical office show that Christians living in Israel do well in university entrance tests and have a relatively high level of employment, but they continue to fall in number. According to a study by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics published last month, 154,500 Christians were living in Israel on Christmas Eve 2011.


(Milan) - Latest figures from Israel's statistical office show that Christians living in Israel do well in university entrance tests and have a relatively high level of employment, but they continue to fall in number.

According to a study published last month by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, 154,500 Christians were living in Israel on Christmas Eve 2011, making up two percent of the Israeli population (the report stressed the figure is temporary and omits Christian foreign workers in Israel, which some estimates put at around 30,000).

The annual study, which is usually published around Christmas time, showed that 80.4% of the Christians in Israel are Christian Arabs. The remainder are mainly Christians who immigrated to Israel with Jewish members of their families under the Law of Return (including their children who were born in Israel), most of them from the former Soviet Union.

The majority of Christian Arabs live in the north of the country and as of the end of 2010, the towns with the largest Christian Arab populations were Nazareth, Haifa, Jerusalem and Shfaram. Non-Arab Christians are spread throughout various districts, mostly in the Tel Aviv and central area with the rest in the Haifa area, the southern district and in and around Jerusalem.

Turning to the rate of entry into higher education, the Bureau claimed that “over the years, the Christian Arabs have had the highest rates of success in the matriculation examinations, both in comparison to the Muslims and the Druze and in comparison to all students in the Jewish education system.”

In the 2010 school year, the statistical office found that 63% of the Christian 12th grade students earned a matriculation certificate compared with 46% of the Muslims, 55% of the Druze and 58% of the students in the Jewish education system. Among Christians Arab students studying toward a bachelor's degree, the main subject was law followed by a degree in the social sciences.

The composition of ages in the Christian population is similar to the Jewish population but differs from Muslim communities which tend to have a larger number of youth. The percentage of young Christians aged 0-19 is 30.4%, similar to that of the Jewish population (33.2%) and is lower than that of the Muslim population (49.7%). The percentage of persons 65 and older among all the Christians is 9.8% as of the end of 2010 (in comparison, the percentages are 11.6% among the Jews and 3.5% among the Muslims).

Christians have the lowest rate of growth among the three religious groups, according to the study. The entire Christian population is growing at 0.9% compared with 1.7% in the Jewish population and 2.7% in the Muslim population. Christians also tend to marry slightly later than their Jewish and Muslim counterparts, and have the lowest fertility rate (the number of children expected to be born to a Christian woman during her lifetime was 2.1 children per woman compared to 3.8 children for a Muslim woman, 3 children to a Jewish mother, and 2.5 to a Druze woman).

The study also noted that since 1992, the size of the average Christian household has decreased from 4.2 to 3.5 persons.

When it comes to employment, Christians fare slightly better. The percentage of unemployment among Christians age 15 and over was 4.9% compared to 6.5% among Jewish men and women. No comparable figures for Muslims were given.

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