Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christians in Israel: Latest Statistics

by Steve Ray on December 26, 2004

Of the Christians living in Israel, 117,000 are Arab and 27,000 are new immigrants, according to the report.

The new immigrant Christians, who came to Israel under the Law of Return that grants citizenship to non-Jewish first-degree relatives of Jews, arrived mainly during the major wave of immigration in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

Approximately 11 percent of all 12th-graders in the Arab education system are Christian, and they lead the population in attainment of matriculation certificates. In 2003, 64 percent of Christian students were eligible for matriculation certificates, as opposed to 49 percent of Muslim students and 57 percent among Jews.

Approximately 98 percent of Israel's Christians live in urban settlements, with 20 percent in Nazareth, 12 percent in Haifa and 10 percent in Jerusalem. Sixty percent of all Christians live in northern Israel.

In terms of their statistical profile, Christians resemble Jews more than Muslims. The number of births per woman stands at 2.3 for Christians, while among Jews the number is 2.7, and among Muslims, 4.5.

The birth rate among Christians has been in continuous decline over the years, along with their proportion in the general population. Their proportion in the Arab population has declined precipitously from 20 percent in 1949 to 15 percent in 1972 to 9 percent at present. In 2003, the Christian population grew by 1.4 percent – the same rate as the Jewish population – while the Muslim population grew by 3.3 percent and the Druze by 2.1 percent.

In 2003, 34 percent of Christians were less than 19 years of age (the same percentage as in the Jewish population). However, they were older than the Muslim population, in which 53 percent were in the 19-and- under age group.

Some 8 percent of Christians were 65 years or or older, as opposed to 12 percent of Jews in this age group, and less than 3 percent among Muslims. In 2003, approximately 4 percent of those emigrating from Israel were Christians, the same percentage as in 2002.

In 2002, the median age when Christian men married for the first time was 28.6 years of age, almost two years later than Jewish men and three years later than Muslim men. The median age for Christian women to marry for the first time was 23.4, younger by a year than their Jewish counterparts and three years older than Muslim women.

In 2003, 3.5 people were living in the average Christian household as opposed to 3.1 in Jewish households and 5.2 among Muslims.

Of all Christian students who finished high school in 1994/5, 34 percent began higher education within six years, as opposed to 31 percent of Jewish students, 22 percent of Muslims and 21 percent of Druze. Some 50.8 percent of Christians 15 and older were in the civilian work force in 2003, while among Muslims the number was 37.7 percent and among Druze, 35.9 percent. Anong Jews, 57.1 percent of those aged 15 and older were in the civilian work force.

By Omer Barak and Motti Bassok, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service, and Agencies

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