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Thousands Protest for Hostages Release, Conscription of Ultra-Orthodox

Thousands in Israel have taken to the streets in two separate protests, one demanding an immediate release of hostages from Gaza and another calling for drafting ultra-Orthodox Jewish men into the military.

The protests are public displays of growing divisions in Israeli society and politics five months into the Gaza war. Protesters calling for the release of hostages marched from a Tel Aviv square carrying enlarged images of women held in Gaza, briefly blocking the highway at one point.

In the other rally, Israelis protested against Netanyahu’s coalition government, demanding an end to the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men from compulsory military service. Some 10,000 people participated in the demonstration, also held in Tel Aviv.

The Supreme Court in 2018 voided a law waiving the draft for ultra-Orthodox men, citing a need for the burden of military service to be shared across Israeli society. The Knesset failed to come up with a new arrangement, and a government-issued stay on mandatory conscription of ultra-Orthodox expires in March. (TOI / VFI News)

“Our Heavenly Father, we pray for the quick release of all the remaining hostages. May Your protective Hand keep them from physical and psychological harm and may they be returned to us shortly. We also pray for a united front, an end to the divisions that plague our nation, as well as for capable leaders who have our people’s best interests at heart.”