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Charedim back IDF - spiritually

    The Gaza conflict has spurred an outpouring of support for the army from Charedim - in the midst of their fight against the IDF draft.

    Some of the most vehement opponents of army service - most notably the revered rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman - have called on their followers to pray for troops and carry extra religious rites in their honour. He described the soldiers as "our brothers".

    There are also grass-roots initiatives. The Shemira Project issues subscribers with a soldier's name, and they become the soldier's spiritual guardian, with "acts of kindness, prayer or Torah learning" intended to secure them extra divine protection.

    "The families of soldiers enjoy the reassurance of spiritual connection for their children," claimed an article in the Charedi newspaper Hamodia.

    But many Israelis say that such statements ring hollow while the refusal to serve continues. The influential rabbi Natan Slifkin mocked the Charedi claim that their spiritual endeavours make them partners with soldiers in the conflict.

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