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BALANCING ACT: Majority of Christians in Israel are Arabic

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/20/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Holy land faithful form diverse mixture of backgrounds, cultures

Christians make up just two percent of the population in Israel. However, since the last papal visit to the Holy Land five years ago, the number of Christians in Israel has noticeably. The makeup of the Israeli Christian population has continued to shift - a mixture of nationalities and backgrounds.

There is still a divide among Christians here. As a rule, Arab Christians don't mix much with migrant or Russian Christians.

There is still a divide among Christians here. As a rule, Arab Christians don't mix much with migrant or Russian Christians.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/20/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Israel, Christians, Arabs, migrant workers


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The vast majority of Israeli Christians have always been Arab. Arab Christians comprise three-quarters of the 160,000 Christians living in Israel. Tens of thousands of Christians have since come to Israel from Asia and Africa, as both legal workers and undocumented migrants.

As a result, Christian kids in Israel usually go to Catholic Sunday school on Saturday, since most Israelis observe the Jewish Sabbath, which falls on Saturday. Sunday is the start of the work and school week.

Starvation never takes a vacation --

Most Catholics here are Filipinos who came to Israel as temporary workers. But some, like Marisol Kayanan, have been here two decades.

There is still a divide among Christians here. As a rule, Arab Christians don't mix much with migrant or Russian Christians.

"The city of Tel Aviv, built in 1909 as the Jewish secular city par excellence, is today the center of the Israeli economy," one local religious leader says. "It's the hub of the life of the migrants, because that's where the work is. And if you go to the neighborhood around the bus station in south Tel Aviv, you have the most Christian neighborhood anywhere in the Holy Land."

Christian churches have since become more integrated into Israeli life, in Israeli cities, working with Israeli social services and running religious education programs.

Although migrants add to the number of Christians in Israel, they are a tiny minority. Pollster Tamar Hermann of the Israel Democracy Institute doubts churches like Our Lady of Valor will impact Israeli society.

"It wasn't opened because of local people expressing some needs," she says. "It is for people who, in the foreseeable future ... would not get citizenship. They do not take part in the political discourse."

Temporary workers from Asia and undocumented migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, have experienced intolerance here.

"People are much more hostile toward the Africans" partly because some African migrants are Muslim, she says. "Because of the pressures put on them, they act together in order to protest government policies."

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