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Christians Report Lowest Growth Rate In Israel

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JERICHO, WEST BANK - JANUARY 17: (ISRAEL OUT) Christian pilgrims bathe in the Jordan River on January, 17,2012 at the Qasir al-Yahud baptismal site near Jericho, West Bank. Qasir al-Yahud is said to be the spot where Jesus was baptized. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
JERICHO, WEST BANK - JANUARY 17: (ISRAEL OUT) Christian pilgrims bathe in the Jordan River on January, 17,2012 at the Qasir al-Yahud baptismal site near Jericho, West Bank. Qasir al-Yahud is said to be the spot where Jesus was baptized. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

By Judith Sudilovsky
Religion News Service

JERUSALEM (RNS/ENInews) Christians have the lowest growth rate among the Israeli population, according to a recent report from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.

According to the Jan. 6 report, the Christian growth rate of 0.9 percent lags behind the Jewish rate of 1.7 percent and the 2.7 percent growth rate among Muslims. Christian Arabs have a growth rate of 1 percent, while the rate among non-Arab Christians is 0.7 percent.

About 154,000 Christians live in Israel, representing about 2 percent of the population, according to the bureau.

The percentage of Christians in Israel has remained relatively stable since the mid-1980s, noted Wadie Abunassar, director of the International Center for Consultations and a consultant for the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.

About 80 percent of Christians living in Israel are Arabs, with the remainder mainly Christians who immigrated to Israel with Jewish members of their families under the Law of Return, which allows any proven Jewish person to immigrate to Israel.

The estimated birthrate for Christian women is also the lowest among the religious groups. The average number of children expected to be born to a Christian woman is 2.1, compared to a Muslim woman (3.8), a Jewish woman (3.0) and a Druze woman (2.5).

But though their relative numbers in Israeli society are low, Christian Arab students consistently have the highest success rates on college-entry examinations compared to other sectors of Israeli society.

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