Netanyahu's Christmas Message: Christians in Mideast Live in Fear - Except in Israel

Premier emphasizes that Israel is Middle East's exception, enabling full religious freedom.

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A Christian pilgrim dips in the water at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud on the banks of the Jordan River near the West Bank city of Jericho May 21, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Christians both in Israel and worldwide a Merry Christmas and called on them to remember those in the Middle East community who are persecuted.

"Christian communities across the Middle East are experiencing a particularly difficult time. They're experiencing violence, persecution and fear," the premier said.

Except in Israel, he said.

"Here in Israel religious freedom is a sacred principle," Netanyahu said. Christian citizens' "equal rights are enshrined in Israeli law."

He added: "Let us remember the common heritage and values that unite us in the face of extremism and hatred, which we will never accept."

As of the Jewish New Year 2014, Israel's population exceeded 8.9 million, of whom a bit more than 2% are Christians.