Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his yearly Christmas greetings to Christians worldwide Thursday.

"From Jerusalem I wish Israel's Christian community, and Christians everywhere, a very joyous Christmas, and a happy New Year," the prime minister began.

Some 2% of Israel's population of roughly eight million are Christians, and Israel is the only Middle Eastern state where the Christian population is actually growing.

Netanyahu noted that "Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East, maybe the only country in the Middle East, where Christians are truly free to practice their faith openly and freely, to celebrate Christmas and other Christian holidays."

"The State of Israel is a beacon of liberty in a Middle East plagued by oppression and extremism," he continued. "Here everyone can practice their faith, because in Israel religious freedom is sacred.

"My fervent hope, my fervent prayer, is that 2016 is marked by greater security and greater freedom for Christians across the Middle East."