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Ultra-Orthodox protest against order to enlist in Israeli military turns violent in Jerusalem

Military service is compulsory for most Jewish men and women in Israel. But politically powerful ultra-Orthodox parties have won exemptions for their followers to skip military service and instead study in religious seminaries.

The long-standing arrangement has bred resentment among the broader public, a sentiment that has grown stronger during the eight-month war against Hamas. Over 600 soldiers have been killed in fighting, and tens of thousands of reservists have been activated, upending careers, businesses and lives.

Ultra-Orthodox parties and their followers say forcing their men to serve in the army will destroy their generations-old way of life. Earlier Sunday, thousands of men crowded a square and joined in mass prayers. Many held signs criticizing the government, with one saying “not even one male” should be drafted.

The ultra-Orthodox parties are key members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition and could potentially force new elections if they decide to leave the government in protest.

Party leaders have not said whether they will leave the government. Doing so could be risky, with Netanyahu’s coalition’s popularity lagging since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war.

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