Christians Make Up 2.1% of Israel's Population

There are 152,000 Christians living in Israel, about 2.1 percent of the population, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced yesterday in honor of Christmas.

Just over 80 percent of them are Arabs; most of the rest immigrated here together with a Jewish relative. Of the latter category, most came from the former Soviet Union.

Most Israeli Christians, some 74 percent, live in the north of the country. Another 11 percent live in the Jerusalem area.

The Christian population is overwhelmingly urban, with 98 percent living in cities in 2006. That compares to 91 percent of Jews and 93 percent of Muslims. The town with the largest Christian population is Nazareth (20,000), followed by Haifa (17,200), Jerusalem (15,000) and Shfaram (8,800).

Even though this population is largely Arab, Christian demographics resemble Jewish ones rather than Muslim ones: Some 9 percent of Christians are 65 or older (compared to 3 percent for Muslims), while 33 percent are 19 or younger (identical to the Jewish rate, but far below the Muslims' 52 percent).

Christian women gave birth to 2,500 children in 2006, 81 percent of them Arab. The Christian birthrate has steadily declined, from 4.6 children per woman in 1960 to 2.1 last year, and is now the lowest in Israel.

By comparison, the rate was 4.0 for Muslims, 2.8 for Jews and 2.6 for Druze in 2006.

Nevertheless, the average Christian household contains 3.5 people, compared to 3.1 for Jews and 5.2 for Muslims.