Israel’s Christian population grew slightly, with Arab Christians comprising most of the country’s Christians, according to a new report. The report, released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, found that Israel’s Christian community grew by 2% in 2021, representing 1.9% of the country’s population. According to the report, 75.8% of Christians in Israel are Arab Christians, accounting for 6.9% of the Arab population in Israel. “In 2021, the total fertility rate of a Christian woman was an average of 1.77 children per woman, 1.80 in 2019,” the report reads. “The number of children per Arab Christian woman was lower still, at 1.68 children per woman.” Most Arab Christians reside in Nazareth (21,100), followed by Haifa (16,700), Jerusalem (12,900), and Shefar’am (10,500), according to the report. The average size of a Christian household was 3.06 people, similar to the size of a Jewish household (3.05), but lower than a Muslim household (4.46).
“The average number of children up to age 17 in Christian families with children up to this age is 1.86,” the report adds. “Of these Christian families, the average number of children up to age 17 in Arab Christian families is 1.94 — smaller than the numbers in Jewish families (2.42) and in Muslim families (2.62).” The report also found that 52.9% of Arab Christians and 31.2% of non-Arab Christians pursued higher education after completing high school, a larger proportion than both the Arab Muslim population (31.2%) and the Jewish population (48.2%). Christian students seeking a first degree were largely studying musicology (15.7%), management information systems (10.5%), and food engineering and technology (9.9%) in contrast to other students studying for their first degree.
Compared to Muslim students, Christians were less likely to be pursuing degrees in education, business and management sciences, and paramedical studies. However, Christian students were more likely to study social sciences, mathematics, computer sciences and statistics. “The proportion of women among the Christian students was higher than women’s proportion among the total number of students in the advanced degrees: 65.2% and 53.1%, respectively, of those studying for a third degree, and 73.8% and 64.2%, respectively, of those studying for a second degree,” the report notes. Regarding the proportion of Christians participating in the labour force in 2021, 66.3% of Christians aged 15 and older (69.2% of men and 64.1% of women) accounted for the faith group’s participation in the workforce.
Christians’ presence in Israel has long sparked debates about whether they should evangelize Jewish people. As previously reported, the end of COVID-19 restrictions also drew Christian tourists back to Israel to mark the biblical Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. More than 2,000 pilgrims from 70 nations reportedly visited Jerusalem from Oct. 9–16 for the celebration sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. While Rabbi Tuly Weisz said he is open to Christians participating in the occasion, the Israel365 founder raised concerns about Christians evangelizing Jews. While Weisz said he believes non-Jewish tourists should be “warmly welcomed” to “come closer to the true fulfilment of Sukkot,” he expressed concern that some Christians would use it as an opportunity to share the Gospel with Jewish people.
“Unfortunately, some of the Christian visitors will hope to use their time in the Jewish state to engage in missionary activity,” he wrote in an op-ed piece published in The Jerusalem Post. “The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem does its best to prevent this, warning its guests to refrain from such offensive behaviour.” As Weisz noted, several Christians have criticized such activities while visiting Israel, including David Swaggerty, senior pastor of Charisma Life Ministries in Columbus, Ohio. In an interview Swaggerty explained that he preaches the Gospel during pastor’s conferences in countries like Thailand and Tanzania, but Israel, he said, is different. “When I go to Israel or with my Jewish friends in Columbus, missionizing is off the table,” he said. “I do not do that. I don’t believe that’s God’s will for my life to do that.”
“I don’t feel that’s my responsibility. My calling is to build bridges of trust and friendship among the Jewish people and Christians,” he added. “In doing that, I have a commitment to myself and my congregagtion that we do not missionize the Jewish people.” Swaggerty believes there’s “no point in fighting whether Jesus came once or not at all” since “when He shows up, there will be no mistaking who He is.” Others, however, such as Messianic Jewish author, radio host and columnist Michael Brown, feels this approach to sharing the Gospel is a “terrible disservice” to the Jewish people. “Every Jewish believer I know urges Christians to please share the Good News with our people,” Brown said. “It is the most unloving thing you can do to withhold the water of life from a Jewish person. Jews and Gentiles are saved the exact same way. It is through faith in Jesus, through His death on the cross. “And without that, there is no salvation.”
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