by Mara Vigevani
On the eve of Christmas, Israel’s Christian population stands at approximately 175,000 people, some 2 percent of the Israeli population, according to data published Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
The Christian population grew in 2017 by 2.2 percent, compared with 1.4 percent in the previous year.
The majority (77.7 percent) of the country’s Christian population are Arab (133,000) with Arab Christians constituting 7.3 percent of the total Arab population in Israel.
Nearly one quarter (22.3 percent) of the Christian population in Israel are non-Arab Christians (38,300) most of them immigrated to Israel with Jewish family members under the Law of Return (including their children born in Israel) since the 1990s.
Most of the Arab Christian population (70.6 percent) live in the northern part of Israel mostly in Nazareth (22.1 thousand) and Haifa (15,800). Around 9.6% of the Christian Arab population (12,600) live in the Jerusalem district.
The geographical distribution of non-Arab Christian population differs from that of the Arab Christians: 40.9 percent live in the Tel Aviv and Central Districts, 33.8 percent in the Northern District and Haifa District. There are 4,000 Christians in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 3,700 in Haifa 3.7 and 3,200 in Jerusalem.
According to the Tourism Ministry, Israel welcomed some 150,000 Christians for the festive season to celebrate Christmas in Jerusalem and Bethlehem and to spend the Christmas period in the Holy Land, closing out a record year for tourism in Israel with almost 4 million people entering the country on tourist visas.
In 2018 more than half of the tourists who visited Israel were Christian, making a significant contribution to incoming tourism.