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Christianity (Hebrew: נצרות, romanizedNatsrút; Arabic: المسيحية, romanizedal-Masīḥiyya) is the third largest religion in Israel, after Judaism and Islam. At the end of 2022, Christians made up 1.9% of the Israeli population, numbering approximately 185,000. 75.8% of the Christians in Israel are Arab Christians. Christians make up 6.9% of the Arab-Israelis.[1]

Ten Christian churches are formally recognized under Israel's confessional system, for the self-regulation and state recognition of status issues, such as marriage and divorce: the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Latin Catholic Church, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Maronite Church, and the Syriac Orthodox Church.[2] However, the practice of religion is free, with no restrictions on the practice of other denominations. Approximately 300 Christians have converted from Islam according to one 2014 estimate, and most of them are part of the Catholic Church.[3] About 20,000 Israelis also practice Messianic Judaism, usually considered a syncretist form of Christianity. They are mostly classified as being "without a religious affiliation" rather than being classified as either Jewish or Christian.

Arab Christians are mostly adherents of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (60% of Arab Christians in Israel).[4] Some 40% of all Israeli Christians are affiliated with the Melkite Greek Church, and some 30% with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.[4] Smaller numbers are split between the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with 13% of Christians, as well as an unknown number of Russian Orthodox Christians, about 13,000 Maronites and other Syriac Christians, 3,000 to 5,000 adherents of Armenian churches, a community of around 1,000 Coptic Christians, and small branches of Protestants. The number of Christians in Israel is higher than in the Palestinian territories.

Israeli Christians are historically bound with neighbouring Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian Christians. The cities and communities where most Christians in Israel reside are Haifa, Nazareth, Shefa-Amr, Jish, Mi'ilya, Fassuta and Kafr Yasif.[5] Arab Christians are one of the most educated groups in Israel. Maariv newspaper has described Arab Christians as "the most successful [group] in the education system",[6] since Arab Christians fared the best in terms of education in comparison to any other group receiving an education in Israel.[7] The Christian communities in Israel run numerous schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, homes for the elderly, dormitories, family and youth centers, hotels, and guesthouses.[8] The Christian community in Israel is the one of the few growing Christian population in the Middle East.[9][10]

History

See also: Jerusalem in Christianity; Helena, mother of Constantine I; and Crusades

Jesus and the Roman period

Yardenit, Jordan River baptismal site

For Christians, the region that is today composed of Israel and Palestine is the Holy Land. According to traditional sources, Jesus, the central figure of Christianity, lived in Roman Judea. The Gospels in the Bible describe Jesus as having been born in Bethlehem (today located in the Palestinian territories) and grown up in Nazareth (today located in Israel).

Christians believe that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, yet resurrected; his empty tomb is believed to lie at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Old City of Jerusalem. The church is considered to be the holiest site for Christians in the world.

Late antiquity and the Muslim conquest

In contrast to other groups of Christians in the Near East such as the largely Assyrian Nestorians, the vast majority of Christians in Judea (later renamed Syria Palaestina) were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the emperors of the Roman Empire and later Eastern Roman Empire, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarchate after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD (which would be part of the Eastern Orthodox Church after the Great Schism), and were known by other Syrian Christians as Melkites (followers of the king).[11] Helena, mother of Constantine I was responsible for the beautification or construction of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Church of Eleona on the Mount of Olives; sites of Christ's birth and ascension, respectively.[12]

The Melkites, during the late Roman period and under the Byzantine Empire were Hellenised, and abandoned Western Aramaic languages in favor of Greek. By the 7th century, Jerusalem and Byzantine Syria Palaestina was a major center of Greek and Christian culture in the Orient.[11]

Following Muslim conquests, Christians underwent a process of Arabization in which they abandoned Aramaic and Greek in favor of Arabic.[13][11]

The Crusades

During the middle ages the Holy Land was the scene of several military campaigns between Christians and Muslims. Following the Byzantines' confrontation with the Seljuk Turks and the fear of Turkish expansion, the Byzantine sought aid from the Western Christians. Pope Urban II proposed a holy war, the First Crusader in 1096. The call for a crusade gained momentum, promising indulgences for sins. Despite conflicts with Byzantine leaders, they captured Antioch and eventually Jerusalem. The conquests were marked by brutality and savagery against Muslims and Jews. The Second Crusade (1147-1148 CE) followed a generation later and aimed to recover lost territories. It faced internal strife and external betrayals, and resulted in failure. The Third Crusade (1189-1193 CE) was in response to Saladin's recapture of Jerusalem. Notable European leaders like Richard the Lion-heart fought in the Crusader, however they failed to recapture Jerusalem.[14]

The Fourth Crusade (1201-1204 CE) Initiated by Pope Innocent III, it faced financial and organizational challenges. Deviating from its intended path, the crusade sacked Zara and Constantinople, causing lasting damage to the Byzantine Empire. The Crusaders' actions accelerated the decline of the Byzantine Christians in the Eastern Mediterranean.[14]

The Ottoman Empire

See also: Christianity in the Ottoman Empire

Under the Muslim Ottoman Empire, Christians were considered dhimmis, non-Muslim subjects. Dhimmis were granted the freedom to practice their religion under certain conditions and were given a level of communal autonomy as outlined in the Millet system.[15] In exchange for the assurance of their safety and the protection of their property,[15] individuals falling under the dhimmi category were required to pay a tax known as jizya, exclusive to dhimmis.[16] Furthermore, dhimmis were bound by specific rules that didn't apply to Muslim citizens, including the prohibition from attempting to convert Muslims to their religious practices.[17]

Modern period

The territory of present-day Israel came under control of the British following the defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. The British established an administration in the region called Mandatory Palestine. Following the Balfour Declaration (1917) and the visit of the Zionist Commission to Mandatory Palestine (1918), local Christians participated in forming groups which opposed Zionism, called the Muslim-Christian Associations.

During the Israeli War of Independence (1947-1949), Christians experienced mixed treatment from the Israeli forces. Generally, most Christians were allowed to remain in their homes. In other cases, however, Christian villages were depopulated, razed, and had their residents expelled, such as in Iqrit and Kafr Bir'im.[18] Massacres of Christians were conducted at the villages of Eilabun and Al-Bassa. Nazareth, at that time a town with a Christian majority,[19] was spared devastation after agreeing to halt resistance and surrender, and because Israel did not want to visibly provoke an outcry in the Christian world.[20]

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War (1967), the Christian as well as Jewish and Islamic holy sites were opened for multinational pilgrims by the Israeli authorities for the first time since 1948, when the Kingdom of Jordan took over the eastern half of the city.[21]

The Christian population in Israel has increased with the immigration of many mixed families from the former Soviet Union (1989-late 1990s), and through the influx of approximately 7,000 Christian Maronites from Lebanon in 2000. Recently, a further increase in Christianity came with arrival of many foreign workers and asylum seekers, some of Christian background (for instance from the Philippines, Eritrea, Ethiopia and South Sudan). As a result, numerous churches have opened in Tel Aviv.[22]

As of 2013, the Government - Christians Forum was formed in Jerusalem, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Public Security, to address the concerns of the Christian leaders and representatives in Israel, and in order to empower the relations between the government and Christian leaders and representatives in Israel.

A 2021 survey by CBS found that 84% of Christians were satisfied with life in Israel. The survey also found Arab Christian women were the most educated demographic in Israel.[23] Concern was expressed by the patriarchs, however, over extremist groups in Israeli society.[23] In 2023, the Latin Patriarch—the head of the Latin Church in the Holy Land—alleged that a shift toward far-right politics under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu led to greater attacks on Christians.[24] The president of Israel, Isaac Herzog and the Israeli chief of police condemned the violence against Christians.[25] The Israeli police chief stated the police conducted operations to "eradicate" the phenomena.[25] However, Christians have said they do not necessarily feel protected by authorities.[26][27][28]

During the Israel-Hamas war (2023-ongoing), there have been several incidents involving Christians, most notably the Church of Saint Porphyrius airstrike and the killing of two Catholic women by an Israeli sniper in the Holy Family Parish in northern Gaza.[29][30]

Affiliations

Catholic Church

St. Elijah Cathedral, Haifa.

Main article: Catholic Church in Israel

Six of the particular churches of the Catholic Church have jurisdiction within Israel: the Melkite Greek Catholic Church is by far the largest Catholic church in Israel,[4] the Latin Church (by far the dominant Catholic church worldwide), the Armenian Catholic Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Syriac Maronite Church.

According to 2020 estimates, Catholics make up more than half of all Christians in Israel.[31] The majority are of Arab descent, while a small community are of Hebrew descent.

Eastern Orthodox

The Russian Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral, in Jerusalem.

Main article: Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Around 30% of Christians in Israel are adherents of the Eastern Orthodox Church,[4] mostly to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which has jurisdiction over all Israel and Palestine. Eastern Orthodox Christians in Israel and Palestine have many churches, monasteries, seminaries, and other religious institutions all over the land, particularly in Jerusalem. Israel also has many followers of the Russian Orthodox Church, mainly through the immigration of many mixed families from the former Soviet Union (1989-late 1990s).

Oriental Orthodox

Main articles: Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Monastery of Saint Mark, Jerusalem

Oriental Orthodoxy in Israel is represented mainly by adherents of Armenian Apostolic Church, represented by Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and adherents of the Syriac Orthodox Church, headed by archbishop Severius Malke Mourad, patriarchal exarch of Jerusalem.[32]

Protestants

There has been a small Protestant community in Israel since the foundation of the state in 1948, composed of both Arab Christians who changed their religious affiliation to Protestant teachings and European and American residents moving to the area.

The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is a province of the Anglican Communion. The seat of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem is St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem. Other prominent Episcopal churches in the Holy Land include Christ Church, Jerusalem, built in 1849, which is inside the Jaffa Gate of the contested Old City of Jerusalem, and Christ Church, Nazareth, built in 1871, both built during the Ottoman period.[33]

According to 2020 estimates, Protestants make up less than one in ten of Christians in Israel.[31]

Baptists

Baptist Village (Kfar HaBaptistim), north of Petah Tiqva, was founded in 1955 as a farming community with "a boarding school for orphans ... now used mainly for conferences and camps."[34]

The Association of Baptist Churches in Israel was founded in 1965.[35]

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses have been present for decades in Israel. They have faced some religious persecution in the past century. On March 8, 1997, a mob of over 250 ultra-orthodox Jews attacked one of their meeting halls.[36] By 1999 it was estimated there were about 850 Jehovah's Witnesses in Israel.[36] In 2020, the number of Jehovah's Witnesses was 1,957 active publishers, united in 31 congregations; 3,653 people attended the annual celebration of Lord's Evening Meal in 2020.[37]

Jewish Christians

Main article: Jewish Christian

Jewish Christians are not considered bona-fide Jews under Israel's Law of Return[38] (see Rufeisen v. Minister of the Interior).

Hebrew Christian movement

Main article: Hebrew Christian movement

The Hebrew Christian movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries consisted of Jews who converted to Christianity as a result of Protestant missionary activity. It was incorporated into the later parallel Messianic Jewish movement in the late 1960s.

Messianic Jews

Main article: Messianic Judaism

The number of Messianic Jews in Israel is estimated at around 20,000.[39][40]

In Jerusalem, there are twelve Messianic congregations[41][failed verification]. On 23 February 2007, Israel Channel 2 News released a news documentary about the growing number of Messianic Jews in Israel.[42]

Relations with other religions

Christian–Jewish relations

Jehovah's Witnesses preaching in Haifa, Israel

Background

Hebrew-speakers call Christians Notzri (also romanized Notsri), which means Nazarene (originated from Nazareth).[43] The word is cognate to the Arabic Nasrani.

The Israeli Declaration of Independence, issued in 1948, describes the country as a Jewish state but clearly extends religious freedoms to all of its inhabitants by stating that the State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions.[44][45]

Tensions

Further information: Price tag policy

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews have been accused of having a decades-old practice of cursing and spitting on Christian clergymen in Jerusalem,[46] and there have been cases where churches and cemeteries were defaced by price taggers.[47][48][49][50] When the doors of the Latrun Trappist monastery were set aflame and the phrase "Jesus was a monkey" was painted on its walls in September 2012, the Vatican reacted with a rare official complaint against the Israeli government's inaction.[51] In June 2015, an auxiliary building[52] of the Church of the Multiplication was significantly damaged by an arson attack and its walls defaced by Hebrew graffiti, bearing the words "the false gods will be eliminated" (quoted from the Aleinu prayer).[53][54] This attack was labelled as "terrorism" by Israeli officials.[55]

Prosperity of Christian community

Gabriel Naddaf argues that Israel is the only country in which Christian communities have been able to thrive in the Middle East.[56] However, there has also been criticism by Palestinian Christians of this claim, with such statements being called a "manipulation" of the facts.[57] Members of the Palestinian Christian community claim that such statements attempt to hide the discrimination that Arab Christians face within Israel due to alleged discrimination against Arabs as well as the effect of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza on the Christian population in these areas.[58]

United Allies

Main article: Ihud Bnei HaBrit

Recently, there has been a steady undercurrent of Arab Christians who seek deeper integration into Israeli society. Under the leadership of Greek Orthodox priest Gabriel Naddaf, United Allies is a political party that advocates Christian enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and a more distinct societal separation of Christians from Muslims.[59] This separation is partly based on the purported fact that Christians in Israel are not technically Arabs, seeing as they were present in the holy land long before the Arab conquest, hallmarked by the Siege of Jerusalem. This distinction is in the process of being formalized into law, as the Likud government is currently drafting legislation to grant this request.[60]

This new attitude is founded largely by the perception by some that only in Israel the Christian population is growing due to natural increase and no state persecution, seeing the entire Middle East, except Lebanon, as where Christianity is and has been rapidly on the decline. In addition, increasing numbers of Christian leaders and community members are pointing to Muslim violence as a threat to their way of life in Arab majority cities and towns.[61] Sons of the New Testament as a party and a national movement has been met with wide admiration from the Jews of Israel, harshly negative scorn from the Muslim Arabs, and mixed reactions from the Christians themselves. Because of Israel's parliamentary system where each party must attain at least 2% of the popular vote, Sons of the New Testament must be supported by non-Christians to enter the Knesset.

Interfaith institutions

Arab Christian cemetery in Haifa

In 2008, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, established the Center for Jewish–Christian Understanding and Cooperation or CJCUC, the first Orthodox Jewish institution to dialogue with the Christian world on a religious and theological basis. The center, currently located in Jerusalem, engages in Hebraic Bible Study for Christians, from both the local community and from abroad, has organized numerous interfaith praise initiatives, such as Day to Praise, and has established many fund-raising initiatives such as Blessing Bethlehem which aim to aid the persecuted Christian community of Bethlehem, in part, and the larger persecuted Christian community of the Middle East region and throughout the world.

Christian–Muslim relations

A recent survey indicated that Christians in Israel are prosperous and well-educated – but some fear that Muslim intimidation will provoke an exodus to the West.[62] The Christian communities in Nazareth tend to be wealthier and better educated compared to other Arabs elsewhere in Israel, and Christians in Nazareth occupy the majority of the top positions in the town: three hospitals and bank managers, judges and school principals and faculties.[63] The socio-economic gap between the Christians wealth and Muslim poverty led sometimes to sectarian crises.[64]

Recently there has been an increase of anti-Christian incidents in the Nazareth area, inspired by the rise of jihadist forces in the Middle East. Many Christians have complained of being targeted by Muslims, whom they believe are trying to either drive them out of cities that have traditionally had large Christian populations, or to "persuade" them to convert.[62] In 1999, for example, radical Muslims in Nazareth rioted as they attempted to wrest land from a major Christian shrine to build a mosque.[62] In one incident during 2014, a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was installed in front of a church in Nazareth.[65]

There has also been increasing incitement and violence by the Muslims against Christians who voice their support for the Israel Defense Forces. In a recent case, the son of Gabriel Naddaf, a prominent Eastern Orthodox priest who is regarded as being pro-Israel, was severely beaten. Naddaf has experienced considerable hostility from Muslims in recent years.[66][67]

A 2015 study estimated that some 300 Christians were from a Muslim background in Israel.[68]

A 2016 study[69] by Pew research points to the convergence of political views of both Muslims and Christians over issues like – Israel cannot be a Jewish state and a democracy at the same time (Christians: 72%; Muslims: 63%), US being too supportive of Israel (Christians: 86%; Muslims: 75%), Israeli government not making enough efforts to make peace with Palestine (Christians: 80%; Muslims: 72%).

Demographics

Israel has a population of 182,000 Christians as of 2021, it is the only growing Christian community in the Middle East.[9][10]

Christians in Israel population pyramid in 2021

Education

Catholic school in Haifa: High level Christian schools are among Israel's best performing educational institutions.[70]

According to the study "Are Christian Arabs the New Israeli Jews? Reflections on the Educational Level of Arab Christians in Israel" by Hanna David from the University of Tel Aviv, one of the factors why Arab Christians are the most educated segment of Israel's population is the high level of the Christian educational institutions. Christian schools in Israel are among the best schools in the country, and while those schools represent only 4% of the Arab schooling sector, about 34% of Arab university students come from Christian schools,[71] and about 87% of the Israeli Arabs in the high tech sector have been educated in Christian schools.[72][73] A 2011 Maariv article described the Christian Arab sector as "the most successful in the education system",[6] an opinion supported by others who point out that Christian Arabs fared best in terms of education in comparison to any other group receiving an education in Israel.[7]

High school and matriculation exams

The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics noted that when taking into account the data recorded over the years, Arab Christians fared the best in terms of education in comparison to any other group receiving an education in Israel.[7] In 2016 Arab Christians had the highest rates of success at matriculation examinations, namely 73.9%, both in comparison to Muslim and Druze Israelis (41% and 51.9% respectively), and to the students from the different branches of the Hebrew (majority Jewish) education system considered as one group (55.1%).[74][75]

Higher education

Arab Christians are one of the most educated groups in Israel.[76][77] Statistically, Arab Christians in Israel have the highest rates of educational attainment among all religious communities, according to a data by Israel Central Bureau of Statistics in 2010, 63% of Arab Christians have had college or postgraduate education, the highest of any religious group.[78] Despite the fact that Arab Christians only represent 2.1% of the total Israeli population, in 2014 they accounted for 17.0% of the country's university students, and for 14.4% of its college students.[79] The percentage of Arab Christian women who are receiving higher education is also higher than that of other groups.[6] There are more Christians who have attained a bachelor's degree or higher academic degrees than the median Israeli population.[7]

The rate of students studying in the field of medicine was higher among Christian Arab students than that of all other sectors.[80]

In 2013, Arab Christian students were also the vanguard in terms of eligibility for higher education,[7] as the Christian Arab students had the highest rates of receiving Psychometric Entrance Test scores which make them eligible for acceptance into universities, data from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics show that 61% of Arab Christians were eligible for university studies, compared to 50% of Jewish, 45% of Druze, and 35% of Muslim students.[81]

Socio-economic

In terms of their socio-economic situation, Arab Christians are more similar to the Jewish population than to the Muslim Arab population.[82] They have the lowest incidence of poverty and the lowest percentage of unemployment which is 4.9% compared to 6.5% among Jewish men and women.[83] They have also the highest median household income among Arab citizens of Israel and second highest median household income among the Israeli ethno-religious groups.[84] Arab Christians also have a high presentation in science and in the white collar professions.[85] In Israel, Arab Christians are portrayed as a hard-working and upper-middle-class educated ethno-religious minority. According to study the majority of Christians in Israel (68.2 per cent) are employed in the service sector, i.e. banks, insurance companies, schools, tourism, hospitals etc.[8]

Political affiliation among Israeli Christians, 2015[86]
Hadash
35%
Balad
14%
Israeli Labor Party
9%
Meretz
6%
Ra'am
4%
Kadima
2%
Yesh Atid
2%
Yisrael Beytenu
1%
No party
26%

Largest communities

In 2019, approximately 70.2% of Arab Christians resided in the Northern District, 13.3% in the Haifa District, 9.5% in the Jerusalem District, 3.4% in the Central District, 2.7% in the Tel Aviv District and 0.5% in the Southern District.[87] Approximately 23.5% of Non-Arab Christians resided in the Tel Aviv District, 19.4% in the Haifa District, 17.5% in the Central District, 14.4% in the Northern District, 14.3% in the Southern District and 9.8% in the Jerusalem District.[88]

Nazareth has the largest Christian Arab population, followed by Haifa.[87] The majority of Haifa's Arab minority is Christian.[89] The Christian Arab communities in Nazareth and Haifa tend to be wealthier and better educated compared to other Arabs elsewhere in Israel.[90][64] Arab Christians also live in a number of other localities in the Galilee; such as Abu Snan, Arraba, Bi'ina, Deir Hanna, I'billin, Jadeidi-Makr, Kafr Kanna, Muqeible, Ras al-Ein, Reineh, Sakhnin, Shefa-Amr, Tur'an and Yafa an-Naseriyye.[91]

Localities such as Eilabun, Jish, Kafr Yasif and Rameh are predominantly Christians,[5] and nearly all the population of Fassuta and Mi'ilya are Melkite Christians.[92] Some Druze villages, such as Daliyat al-Karmel,[93] Ein Qiniyye, Hurfeish, Isfiya, Kisra-Sumei, Maghar, Majdal Shams and Peki'in, have small Christian Arab populations.[94] Mixed cities such as Acre, Jerusalem, Lod, Ma'alot-Tarshiha, Nof HaGalil, Ramla and Tel Aviv-Jaffa have significant Christian Arab populations.[94]

Largest Christian communities as of 2017[95] and 2018:[96]
Northern District Haifa District Jerusalem District Tel Aviv Central District
City Christian
population
% of
total pop.
Data from: City Christian population % of
total pop.
Data from: City Christian population % of
total pop.
Data from: City Christian population % of
total pop.
Data from: City Christian population % of
total pop.
Data from:
Nazareth 21,900 28.6% 2018 Haifa 20,000: (of them 16.100 Arab Chr.) 7.1% 2018 Jerusalem 16,000: (of them 12.700 Arab Chr.) 1.8% 2018 Tel Aviv 7,000: (majority of them non-Arab Chr.) 1% 2018 Ramla 3,500 4.7 2019[97]
Shefa-'Amr 10,300 25.1% 2018 Isfiya 1,700 13.7% 2019[98] Lod 800 1.0% 2019[99]
Nof HaGalil 7,500 18.1% 2019[100] Daliyat al-Karmel 17 0.1% 2017[93]
I'billin 5,600 42.8% 2017
Kafr Yasif 5,200 52.2% 2017
Maghar 4,700 21.0% 2017
Acre 4,235 8.5% 2019[101]
Eilabun 4,000 70.8% 2017
Rameh 3,800 50.0% 2017
Yafa an-Naseriyye 3,500 18.5% 2017
Mi'ilya 3,200 97.4% 2017
Fassuta 3,100 99.8% 2017
Reineh 2,900 15.4% 2017
Kafr Kanna 2,200 10.1% 2017
Abu Snan 2,100 15.4% 2017
Ma'alot-Tarshiha 2,100 10.1% 2017
Jish 1,900 63.5% 2017
Tur'an 1,600 11.4% 2017
Sakhnin 1,600 5.2% 2017
Jadeidi-Makr 1,520 7.2% 2019[102]
Peki'in 1,222 20.8% 2019[103]
Deir Hanna 1,000 10.0% 2017
Bi'ina 600 7.4% 2017
Kisra-Sumei 317 3.6% 2019[102]
Arraba 310 1.2% 2017
Muqeible 220 10.0% 2017
Hurfeish 200 3.2% 2017
Yarka 17 0.1% 2019[104]
Majdal Shams 11 0.1% 2019[105]
Ein Qiniyye 10 0.5% 2019[106]

Religiosity

Catholic Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

Christians in Israel are generally more religious than Israeli Jews and Druze. Over half (57%) say religion is very important in their lives.[107] About one third (34%) pray daily and 38% report that they attend church at least once a week.[107] Israeli Christians also are more likely than Jews and Druze to participate in weekly worship services.[107] Nearly all (94%) Israeli Christians believe in God, of whom 79% say they are absolutely certain.[107]

Beliefs and practices

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015, 60% of Christians in Israel fast during Lent,[108] Most (81%) also said that they have icons of saints or other holy figures in their home. Of them, 83% claimed that their icons were anointed with holy oil.[108] The survey also found that the majority of Israeli Christians (89%) say the Bible is the word of God, of whom 65% believe that the Bible should be taken literally.[108] 33% of Christians believe that Jesus will return during their lifetime, which was similar to the number of Muslims who held that belief (33%).[108]

The majority of Christians are not comfortable with their child marrying outside of the faith.[109]

Identity

Christians in Israel are more likely than Jews, Muslims, and Druze to say they are proud of their identity.[110] About 89% say they have a strong sense of belonging to the Christian community.[110] Two thirds believe that they have a special responsibility to help fellow members of their religious group who are in need around the world.[110]

The nature of Christian identity varies among Christians as well. Christians in Israel are about evenly divided among those who say their identity is mainly a matter of religion (31%),[110] those who say being Christian is mainly about ancestry and/or culture (34%) and those who say their identity is characterized by a combination of religion and ancestry/culture (34%).[110]

Aramean identity

In September 2014, Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa'ar instructed the PIBA to recognize Arameans as an ethnicity separate from Israeli Arabs.[111][112] Under the Ministry of the Interior's guidance, people born into Christian families or clans who have either Aramaic or Maronite cultural heritage within their family are eligible to register as Arameans. About 200 Christian families were thought to be eligible prior to this decision.[113] According to an August 9, 2013 Israel Hayom article, at that time an estimated 10,500 persons were eligible to receive Aramean ethnic status according to the new regulation, including 10,000 Maronites (which included 2,000 former SLA members) and 500 Syriac Catholics.[114]

The first person to receive the "Aramean" ethnic status in Israel was 2 year old Yaakov Halul in Jish on October 20, 2014.[115]

Another milestone in recognizing Aramean minority as a distinct culture in Israel was made by Israeli court in 2019, which ruled that the Aramean minority could choose Jewish or Arab education, rather than making children with Aramean identity to be automatically designated to Arabic-language schools.[116]

The recognition of the Aramean ethnicity led to mixed reactions among Israeli minorities, the Christian community, and among the general Arab Israeli population. While some celebrated the success of their long legal struggle to be recognized as a non-Arab ethnic minority, other members of the Arab community in Israel denounced it as an attempt to divide Arab Christians.[117] Representatives of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem officially denounced the move.[117]

Many in Israeli academia advocate the recognition of the Aramean identity and have called on the government of Israel to promote the awareness regarding this issue on the basis of the international principle of ethnic self-determination as espoused by Wilson's 14 points.[118] One of the staunchest supporters of the recognition of the Aramean identity is Gabriel Naddaf, who is one of the leaders of the Christians in Israel. He advocated on behalf of his Aramean followers and thanked the Interior Ministry's decision as a "historic move".[119]

Maps

See also

References

  1. ^ "Christmas 2022 - Christians in Israel". www.cbs.gov.il. Retrieved 2022-12-29.
  2. ^ "Israel 2022 Internation Religious Freedom Report" (PDF). US Department of State. 2022. page 6. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2023-10-10. Retrieved 2023-10-10.
  3. ^ Miller, Duane Alexander (April 2014). "FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN ISRAEL-PALESTINE: MAY MUSLIMS BECOME CHRISTIANS, AND DO CHRISTIANS HAVE THE FREEDOM TO WELCOME SUCH CONVERTS?". St Francis Magazine. 10 (1): 17–24.
  4. ^ a b c d "The Christian communities in Israel". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 1 May 2014. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b "The Christian communities in Israel". mfa.gov.il.
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