Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Evolving Christian Population in Israel

The French original can be found here.

An Evolving Christian Population in Israel

by Jean-Marie Allafort

As in every year at Christmas, the Israeli Bureau of Statistics publishes the official statistics about the Christians living in Israel. According to the figures from the Ministry of the Interior, 81% of Christians are Arabs and the others are immigrants from the ex-USSR who are officially registered as Christians. However, the officially counted Christian population, which numbers 154,000 people at the end of 2009 underestimates the number of Christians living in Israel, both citizens and non-citizens such as foreign workers (Philippinos, Africans, Romanians,…) and religious workers (priests, pastors, monastics,…).

At the end of 2009, 154,000 Christians live in Israel, making up 2.1% of the totality of the population of Israel, which has 7.5 million inhabitants. These statistics do not include the Palestinian Christians in the Territories, except those living in East Jerusalem. 81% of the Christians are Arabs and almost all are Israeli citizens.

The great majority of Christians (98%) live in cities and 70% live in the north of the country. The largest Christian community in Israel is in Nazareth (20,100 people). Next come Haifa, with 14,100 Christian Arabs, Jerusalem (12,800), and Shefaram in Galilee (9,100).
Israel also counts almost 29,000 non-Arab Christians who are mostly from the countries of the former Soviet Union- 3,400 in Haifa, 2,600 in Tel Aviv, and 2,600 in Jerusalem. They declared themselves as such to the Ministry of the Interior. We should also note that 300,000 non-Jewish “Soviet” immigrants are not registered as Christians but are counted in a category specially created for them called “without religion,” a large proportion of which regularly go to churches.

This new, non-Arab Christian community has another statistical influence. An Israeli Christian family is now made up of an average of 3.4 members, a significant decrease since 1992—the average size of a Christian family was then 4.2—since Christian families of Russian origins have far fewer children than the Arab Christians. The growth rate of the Christians is the lowest of all the communities in Israel: 1% for non-Arab Christians and 1.3% for Arab Christians, compared to 1.7% for the Jews and 2.8% for the Muslims, who have the strongest demographic growth among Muslims in the Middle East because of a lower death rate compared to neighboring countries.

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