Israel’s Embassy to the Holy See has released statistics showing that the number of Christians in the State of Israel is not decreasing. The embassy says that the Israeli Christian population is increasing “more or less on par” with that of similarly situated Israeli Jews.
The figures were excerpted from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
“(T)he rate of population increase amongst Israeli Christians is more or less on par with that of Israeli Jews, with whom they share socio-economic characteristics,” the embassy commented in an Oct. 8 press announcement.
In 1949, when the total population was about 1,174,000, there were about 1,014,000 Jews, 212,000 Muslims, 34,000 Christians and 15,000 Druze. In 2007 there were 5,478,000 Jews, 1,206,000 Muslims, 152,000 Christians and 120,000 Druze out of a total population of 7,244,000.
The report did not include an analysis of the percentage of Christians in the State of Israel. The provided figures show a 446 percent increase in the number of Christians, but a 540 percent increase in the number of Jews.
Discussing the Christian presence in Jerusalem from 1988 to 2008, the statistics also show an increase of Christians in Jerusalem from 14,400 to 15,400. However, in that same time period the Jewish population increased from 353,800 to 484,000 and the Muslim population from 125,200 to 255,700.
The Israeli Embassy noted variances in the overall statistics, attributing these to the mass arrival and absorption of refugees from Arab countries and Europe after Israel’s war for independence. There were also changes in the Moslem and Christian population after the Six Days War. The “most dramatic” variance occurred in the 1990s when massive immigration from the former states of the Soviet Union brought about an accelerated rise in Jews and Christians.
It attributed an increased rate of population rise in major economic areas to the influx of non-Arab Christians, mainly foreign workers and Russian immigrants.
According to the embassy, a drop in the Christian population in 1995 may be attributed to the transfer of some areas to Palestinian Authority control, citing political, social and para-military activities within the PA and “beyond the control of the State of Israel.”
The embassy also questioned church officials’ use of the term “Holy Land” when describing the implications of political conflicts. In the embassy’s view, the term “lacks any modern geographical or political definition” and so “it would be wrong to refer to the Holy Land as a general entity in which any persecution of Christians or immigration occurs.”
In 1949 Christians made up about 2.9 percent of the total Israeli population while Jews comprised 86 percent and Muslims made up 18 percent. In 2007, about 2.1 percent of the population was Christian, 75.6 percent was Jewish, and 16.6 percent was Muslim.