On the eve of Christmas celebrations in the Holy Land —Dec 25 for Catholics and Protestants and Jan. 7 for Orthodox Christians—the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released new data on the Christian community in Israel, Ynet reported.
According to the CBS, there are 158,000 Christians living in Israel, constituting 2 percent of the population. This is up slightly from 154,500 last year.
Of the Christian population, 80.6 percent are Arab, primarily residing in northern Israel. Nazareth—the childhood home of Jesus—is the largest Arab-Christian town.
Most of the non-Arab Christians are immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel with their Jewish families under the Law of Return.
The CBS noted that Arab Christians fared best in terms of education in comparison to all other ethnic groups in Israel. For example, some 56 percent of Arab Christians, compared with 50 percent of Jewish students, 36 percent of Druze students and 34 percent of Muslims, received a high school diploma that met the basic demands of Israeli universities.
Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East that has seen its Christian community grow. An estimate 100,000 Christians have fled the civil war in Syria, while in Egypt, Christians are fearful of the rise of Muslim Brotherhood. Even in the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Bethlehem—the birthplace of Jesus—the Christian population has shrunk to a third of the town’s residents, down from 75 percent only a few decades ago.