Ahead of draft, ultra-Orthodox soldiers under fire

JERUSALEM (AP) — In Israel, ultra-Orthodox Jewish males have long avoided military service, but that's about to change.

Last week, Israel's Cabinet approved a plan to gradually end the automatic draft exemptions to ultra-Orthodox seminary students and require all to register for service.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis vehemently oppose the plan, saying the military and immersion in mainstream society will expose their youth to secularism and undermine a pious way of life that has kept the Jewish people alive through centuries of persecution. They insist their young men serve the nation through prayer and study, thus preserving Jewish learning and heritage.

Meanwhile, the few ultra-Orthodox men who already serve in Israel's army are being branded as collaborators and increasingly face harassment and assaults by extremists.

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