I have a question for you. On my one visit to Israel (on business, not a pilgrimage) everyone I talked to in Hertzalia/Tel Aviv was mostly secular. I avoided the few people I saw wearing beanies; it was a self-selected sample. The longest conversation I had was with the cab driver that took me and two other colleagues to Jerusalem. He was in the reserves and flew a helicopter gun-ship when he was not driving the cab. This guy hated the settlements and the settlers with a passion. He had fired on Palestinians hanging around the settlements (hard not to -- the settlers pick existing Palestinian neighborhoods to plant their asses in). He pointed out that each settlement had army patrols around them most of the time. To him it was a criminal waste of time to guard the settlements -- these ass-holes were causing the problems.
Here is my question. How do secular (albeit "observant") Jews go through the mandatory tour of duty and come out hard-line Zionists (to my eyes) unlike my helicopter pilot? They seem to be pretty godless already, it doesn't seem to help much.
As someone who served for almost four years in the army i can tell you several things:
Strangely, I don't think the army playes a significant role in shaping most people's political opinion. most people i've met remained in their views before and after the army.
I believe this is because most secular israelies view the palestinian conflict as urelated to the occupation. Animosity between arabs and jews has been going on for at least 150 years now, long before the state of Israel ever existed, and the general feeling is that even when the last israeli leaves the west bank, nothing will change.
it's a sentiment i personally share.
My support for clearing out of the west bank however, stems from my belief that the current occupation is immoral, expensive and faith based. If Jews insist on living in the west bank, it's their chocie- but they should live under palestinian sovereigenty.
None of this, however, stopped me from serving any less passionately when i was a soldier.
growing up in jerusalem i wittnessed many many suicide bombings, and almost fell victim to a few myself.
When serving in the army, i felt i was literally protecting my family and friends, who weren't located halfway accross the world, but rather less than 20 kilometers away...
I never understood the meaning of "20 Kilometers away" until I was standing on a hill in East Jerusalem at night and our guide was pointing out the lights of Ramalla and Jericho. In Texas we would all be in the same zip code.