Christian Communities of Israel: Jerusalem

  • Israel Ministry of Tourism
  • Published Mar 05, 2013
Christian Communities of Israel: Jerusalem

Christians are represented in the Israeli Government via the Ministry's Department for Christian Communities. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Christian Communities is responsible for addressing the needs and concerns of the Christian communities to the Israeli government.

The Israel Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, established in 2004, seeks to improve the relationship between Christians and Jews. This body works to open formal and direct communication between the Jewish people and Christian leaders worldwide. The Christian Allies Caucus provides assistance in obtaining visa for the Christian community, educates Israelis about Christianity, promotes Christian tourism to Israel and seeks to strengthen the status of women worldwide on the basis of Judeo-Christian values.

As of 2006, there were 148,000 Christians living in Israel, constituting 2.1 percent of the total population, and representing an increase of 400 percent since 1948.

Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community has actually grown. Of these, approximately 80,000 are Catholic and are divided among several denominations including the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Maronite Chruch, the Greek Milkite Catholic Church and the Syrian Catholic Church. The largest of these is the Mikite community, most of whom live in the Galilee and total 50,000, and the Latin Patriarchate, which comprises 20,000 people, most of whom live in East Jerusalem, Nazareth, the West Bank and Gaza.

The Christian communities are represented in four main groups: Orthodox, Non-Chalcedonian (Monophysite), Catholic (Latin and Uniate) and Protestant. More than 98 percent of the Christian community in Isael live in urban areas, with Nazareth having the largest Christian population at 19,000.

The Catholic presence in Israel dates back to the Crusades, when the first Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was established in 1099 in the Crusader state of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Prior to then, the Christians had been under the care of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by the Mamluks in 1291, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem survived only in Name and was re-established only in 1847 under Patriarch Joseph Valerga. The Latin Patriarche has enjoyed uninterrupted succession of 15 different patriarchs since that date. The current Patriarch is Fouad Twal and he is assisted by four Patriarchal vicars, who are based in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Amman and Cyprus.

Source: The Israel Project, the Israel Ministry of Tourism, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs