With thousands of Christians across Israel celebrating Christmas on Tuesday, a statistical breakdown of the Christian population by the Central Bureau of Statistics found that there are currently 158,000 Christians living in the country, representing 2 percent of the total population.

According to the report, approximately 80% of Christians in Israel are Arabs with the remainder mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to the country under the Law of Return, which provides for Israeli citizenship if a person has a Jewish grandparent.

Most Christian Arabs live in the northern Israel, and the cities with the largest Christian populations are Nazareth, with 22,400; Haifa with 14,400; Jerusalem with 11,700; and Shfaram with 9,400.

The Christian population is also growing, albeit at a slower rate than all other sectors.

Christian population growth stands at 1.3%, compared to 1.8% for Jews and 2.5% for Muslims.

The level of Christian education is notable, with 64% of Christian high school students earning a high school diploma, compared to 59% for Jewish Israelis and 48% for Muslims.

The report noted that 10.2% of Arab Christians study for degrees in medical fields, compared to 4.6% of the general student population, while Arab Christians also had a higher rate of students studying for a medical degree than the rest of the population.

In terms of age, 30.1% of all Christians in Israel are 19 and under – similar to the 33.5% of Jews, but significantly lower than the 48.7% for Muslims.

The average number of children for a Christian woman is 2.2, the lowest in the country among the different population sectors.

The average number of children for a Muslim woman is 3.5, the highest, and 3 for Jewish women.

The employment rate for Christians stands at 54% – 63.8% for men and 45.3% for women. The national average is 75% and 66% respectively. Among Christian Arabs, the rates is 48% – with men at 59.5% and women at 37.7%.

On Monday night, Pope Benedict XVI called for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his traditional Christmas address delivered from St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City in front of 50,000 people.

“May peace spring up in the land where the redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end long years of conflict and division and embark resolutely on the path of negotiation,” the pope said.

He also prayed for peace in Syria and appealed for “an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.”

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