Adding to the tensions, extremist sects within the ultra-Orthodox community have come under fire in recent months for attempts to ban the mixing of sexes on buses, sidewalks and other public spaces. In Jerusalem, advertisements depicting women have been removed from billboards and buses because of fears that extremists will vandalize them.
These attempts at coercion have fueled a brewing cultural clash between two Israels. On one hand, the country continues to be a high-tech powerhouse with liberal values that have turned Tel Aviv into a gay mecca. On the other hand, the ultra-Orthodox, with their high birthrates, have grown increasingly outspoken and assertive.
With Netanyahu expected to call early parliamentary elections in the coming months, the country’s opposition is likely to use the controversies over the draft and religious coercion against him.
‘‘Israel is proving once again that it is living in the dark,’’ said Ronit Tirosh, a lawmaker from the opposition Kadima Party.