Clashes in Jerusalem over military draft exemption

STORY: The exemptions offered to the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community date back to the early days of the state of Israel in 1948. The Haredi resistance to joining the military is based on their strong sense of religious identity, which many families fear risks being weakened by army service.

For secular Israelis, whose taxes subsidize the Haredim and who are themselves obliged to serve in the military, the exemptions have long bred resentment and this has grown in the six months since the start of the war in Gaza.

Many Israelis regard the war against Hamas as an existential battle for the future of the country, and some 300,000 reservists joined up to fight. Opinion polls indicate comprehensive public support for removing the exemptions on the Haredi draft.

With a March 31 deadline for the Israeli government to develop legislation to resolve a decades-long standoff over the issue, Netanyahu filed a last-minute application to the Supreme Court for a 30-day deferment.

In an apparent accommodation, the Supreme Court gave government officials until April 30 to submit additional arguments. But, in an interim ruling, it also ordered a suspension of state funding for seminary students who would be liable for conscription from Monday.

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