Bintel Blog

Why Fewer Christians Are Being Born in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

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Christians have the lowest birth rate of all religious groups in Israel, official statistics reveal.

Christian women have on average two children, which is far lower than the statistic for Jewish women who have 2.9 and Muslim women who have 3.8. These statistics come from a new report by the Central Bureau of Statistics, an office of the Israeli government.

It reveals just how sharply birth rates have dropped in the Holy Land’s Christian communities in recent decades — in 1960 the corresponding figure was 4.6. This results in a Christian population that is failing to keep up with Israel’s population growth. In 1949, 2.9% of Israelis were Christian, a figure that dropped to 2.3% in 1972 and now to 2.1% (154,500 people).

The report reveals just how sharp the contrast in birth rates is between Christians — four out of five are Arabs — and the rest of the Arab population, which is Muslim. The average birth rate for Muslim women is just over 4. This means that while almost one in ten Israeli Arabs is currently Christian, this figure is set to drop.

The result is that the growth rate of the Christian population was just 1% in 2007, compared with 2.5% in 2000 and approximately 5% during the 1990s.

So what is going on here? One of the most popular explanations in the Christian community is that the downsizing of families is self-perpetuating. Fewer children means less economic burden and more money to fund their educational institutions, which tend to be better and more universally oriented than Muslim ones. In turn this means that their children tend to get higher paying jobs and then choose to have fewer children to maintain their lifestyle, or they have more opportunities to leave the country.

Michael Levin Tue. Dec 29, 2009

Youmans offers a general context for the attention towards and discussion about the topic of demography and Israel. See: Understanding the Existential Threat -- Israel's Demographic Obsession, by Will Youmans, CounterPunch, December 7, 2002. [Excerpt] "When I give talks to high school students, I merely present an aggregate demographic picture of the history of Palestine/Israel since it really says everything. I tell them that in 1890 the population of Palestine was 8% Jews. One hundred years later, it was 55%. These numbers are not enough to understand what transpired to give rise to the Jewish state, so I tell them that Israel's founders destroyed over 453 Palestinian towns and villages and exiled 800,000 Palestinians. Now, there are more than 4 million Palestinian refugees. At that point nothing else needs to be said. Critics will dismiss this as a gross simplification. However, there can be no doubt that the Israeli officials who worry about demography see it the same way."

Joseph Tue. Dec 29, 2009

Michael Levine. It's not clear how you define Palestine. Are you including Jordan which occupies 77% of Mandatory Palestine ? Boundaries have changed quite a lot in the past two centuries. About 800,000 Jews were pushed out of Islamic countries, about the same number as you say Palestinians were 'exiled' from the 'Jewish State' that occupied about 23 % of Palestine. If Palestiians moved from Israel to Jordan [ both part of Palestine] would they still be in exile ? Shouldn't the 800,000 Palestinian refugees have found homes in other Arab countries during the past 60 years, just as 800,000 Jews found new homes ?

Danny Tue. Dec 29, 2009

Couldn't the decrease in population have to do with the younger generation moving to the West, leaving an older Christian population in Israel? In the Arab areas there seems to be an element of persecution by Muslims.

agissessy-tool Fri. Jan 15, 2010

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