This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, December 23, 2016

The GeoDemographics of Christmas

Younger members of American society (the "Millennials") are more likely to view Christmas as a cultural holiday than as a religious holiday, according to a recent Pew Research poll. That demographic is interesting given the demographic change over time in the Israeli town of Nazareth, where Jesus was from, thus giving rise eventually to the celebration of Christmas (note that according to a Wikipedia entry, Santa Claus first arose from the activities of a Greek Christian Bishop of the 4th Century AD, so both elements of Christmas that are typically celebrated in the US and Europe are linked back to Christianity).

At the time of the birth of Jesus, the population of Nazareth might have been a few thousand, almost all of whom would have been Jewish, although the region at the time was part of the Roman Empire (indeed, you will recall from Luke 2 that the family went from Nazareth to Bethlehem "to be enrolled" in the Roman census). Over time, the city apparently went through transitions in which is was predominantly Christian, but now it has the distinction of being the largest (albeit only about 75,000 people) Arab city in Israel, with about 70 percent of the population being Muslim and the remainder Christian. However, this is a little deceiving because the eastern (old) part of Nazareth was declared a separate city in 1974 and it is predominantly Jewish.

The demography of modern Nazareth brings to mind a link that Abu Daoud sent a few days ago discussing the changing demographics of modern Israel as a whole. The article is titled "Jewish Demography Bodes Well for Israel". The main point of the article is that Israel has the highest birth rate among all developed nations, and that the Jewish population now is reported to have birth rates as high as the Arab population. But the demographics of Israel are still troubling, given the several different groups that comprise the society. A Pew Research report earlier this year noted the following:
Although they live in the same small country and share many traditions, highly religious and secular Jews inhabit largely separate social worlds, with relatively few close friends and little intermarriage outside their own groups. In fact, the survey finds that secular Jews in Israel are more uncomfortable with the notion that a child of theirs might someday marry an ultra-Orthodox Jew than they are with the prospect of their child marrying a Christian. (See Chapter 11 for more information.)
In these increasingly uncertain times, we have to hope that everyone continues to work together in that society as in all societies, regardless of religion or religiosity.

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