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Culture war looms as Israel pledges to end ultra-Orthodox military exemptions

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Resentment against the ultra-Orthodox, known as Haredim, is intense among Israel's secular majority and a growing number of officials. Although the current debate is focused on the military -- universal conscription is central to Israeli identity -- many say the issue is more broadly about spreading the burdens of citizenship to a subsidized, insular group that is expanding in size and influence.

"There is internal turmoil. It's social, it's economic, and it goes to the soul of Israel," said Uri Regev, a Reform rabbi who is president of Hiddush, a religious freedom organization that is critical of ultra-Orthodox military exemptions. "The way of life that the Haredim adopt challenges our stability."

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