ALFEI MENASHE -- Ofra Moses lived here on the occupied West Bank with her husband Avraham and their three children at 5 Azmon Street, a townhouse of stone with a neatly trimmed lawn and, on clear days, a wonderful view of the Mediterranean Sea to the west. They lived atop a hill across the "Green Line" -- the pre-1967 border -- in territory once ruled by Jordan, now occupied by Israel, but they came here not for ideology, but for the clean air, the good schools and the small-town atmosphere.

One Saturday night in April they set off with the children and a young friend for some pre-Passover shopping in a nearby town. They passed an unlit intersection and Avraham slowed down. As he did, someone ran toward the car and threw a bottle filled with gasoline and a lighted rag against Ofra's window. Avraham veered off the road and pulled the children from the burning wreck. But Ofra, engulfed in flames, never got out. Authorities blamed "Palestinian terrorist organizations."

Two days later, Mousa Hanafi, a third-year history major from the Gaza Strip, joined several hundred other students to protest the Israeli occupation at a rally outside the campus of Bir Zeit University, one of the West Bank's largest and most militant schools. A small group of Israeli soldiers quickly arrived. Some of the demonstrators threw rocks and bottles and the soldiers lobbed tear gas, then opened fire. One of the bullets caught Mousa Hanafi in the throat, killing him.

In the painful and protracted conflict between Arab and Jew, the two deaths -- one of a Jewish mother, 34, the other of a Palestinian student, 22 -- amount to little more than a brief moment, two barely heard cries in a long, dark night. They are connected only by timing and the fact that they took place on territory occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War 20 years ago, lands that two peoples, Jewish settlers and Palestinian Arabs, each claim for their own.

There have been 17 such deaths since December, according to a count kept by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, deaths that have further polarized the two sides and widened the gap of blood and history between them.

While American diplomats shuttle between Middle East capitals and Israeli politicians bicker over acceptable terms for international peace conferences, two national movements that have struggled against each other in various forms for 100 years go about the grim business of domination and resistance.

"On the ground, where it matters, you can see all the symptoms of a twilight war, an intercommunal strife that has nothing to do with diplomatic initiatives and that renders them totally superfluous," says Israeli social scientist Meron Benvenisti. "We are now faced not with the old notion of the Israeli-Arab conflict involving external forces and governments, but we are coming closer to a civil war of two competing nationalisms in the land west of the River Jordan."

Most of the estimated 60,000 Jews who have settled in the occupied territories are, like Ofra Moses, not messianic ideologues but middle-class suburban commuters. They are being sucked into the conflict by circumstances and by their own instinctive belief that Jews should have the right to reside anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel.

They have come into conflict with a new generation of Palestinians who, like Mousa Hanafi, either were born or have come of age during the 20 years of Israeli occupation. Many Israelis dreamed that two decades of contact between Arab and Jew would blur the lines of hostility and create the beginning of understanding. Instead, they have given birth to young people who are more militant, more frustrated and more desperate than their elders, and more inclined to lash out with whatever meager weapons they can employ.

An important element in this conflict is that neither side recognizes the legitimate claims of the other, nor even the other's humanity. Thus, for many young Palestinians, Ofra Moses was not a young mother seeking to raise her children in fresh surroundings, but a foe usurping their land. Likewise, to many Jewish settlers, Mousa Hanafi was not a gifted young student, but an enemy manipulated by terrorist elements.

There are souls on fire on the West Bank, Arabs and Jews, some of them reluctant combatants, others eager warriors. This is a look at a few of them and the battlefields on which they struggle.The Yuppies of Alfei Menashe

Alfei Menashe, population 2,500, is only four years old. Houses are still under construction, streets are being laid and the new community swimming pool and tennis courts have just opened. The guard post near the welcoming sign at the front entrance is about the only visible evidence that this is a West Bank Jewish settlement.

"Some people didn't even realize they were living across the Green Line until Ofra's death," says Yossi Feldman, the town secretary.

Houses start at $100,000, and most of the 500 families who live here are Israeli-style yuppies rather than Zionist pioneers. They are likely to carry credit cards rather than hoes. Handguns, a common sight at many settlements, are hard to find here.

The number of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories has nearly doubled since 1983, according to Benvenisti's West Bank Data Project. Despite the fact that, since the formation of a coalition government of national unity in 1984, there has been a virtual freeze on new settlements, many old ones are rapidly expanding.

Unlike some of the Jewish settlements, relations between Alfei Menashe and its Arab neighbors had always been reasonable, if not warm. Kalkaliyeh's mayor has offered road equipment to his Israeli counterpart to clear Alfei Menashe's streets. Arabs have come here for Jewish holidays and Jewish settlers have been invited to Kalkaliyeh for Moslem festivals.

But the death of Ofra Moses has changed all that, changed the feeling of security that the settlers here once enjoyed, and damaged the good will between neighbors.

"I don't like what is happening to me," says Nili Priel, a high school history teacher who lives here with her husband, an insurance agent, and two young children. "I don't want to behave toward the Arabs as the goyim {non-Jews} behaved toward us. I don't want to hate them. I just want to live quietly like before.

"It's amazing, but all your feelings change, even your politics. I am angry and I am afraid and it's not a nice feeling."

For the 12,000 Arabs of Kalkaliyeh, life also has changed. After Ofra Moses' death, Jewish vigilantes armed with automatic weapons descended on the city, smashing shop and car windows and burning nearby fields. There have been a number of molotov cocktail incidents since, and the vigilantes have returned several times. Six residents have been arrested for alleged terrorism, and Kalkaliyeh has been under military curfew for extended periods, its shops shuttered, its roads cut off by Army checkpoints.

Despite the increased military presence, the leaders of Alfei Menashe complain that they are not getting adequate protection. Mayor Shlomo Catan says he was surprised to wake up one night two weeks ago and discover that Army patrols had been withdrawn from the area near where the Moses family had been attacked.

Residents here were further upset when Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of the Labor Party's senior leaders, contended that settlements such as Alfei Menashe "have no security importance" and that their fate in any future peace agreement would be subject to negotiation. Such a statement, complains Catan, a former Army colonel, is an open invitation for attacks.

If the Army won't patrol the area, he complains, it should authorize settlers to form local civil guards to protect themselves. Such units are commonplace inside Israel proper, but generally are prohibited in the occupied territories for fear of setting off confrontations between Jews and Arabs.

Catan and Feldman say they feel constrained unfairly, but they will not take the law into their hands. There are others, however, who have no such qualms. The Committee for Safe Traveling

Outside Shmuel Ben Yishai's apartment building sat a green Volvo with a shattered windshield. The night before, on the main road from Jerusalem, someone hiding inside the Dheisheh refugee camp had lobbed a rock at the windshield -- a common occurrence after dark.

Each morning for the last two months, Ben Yishai and several dozen other Jews have armed themselves with handguns, lead pipes and wooden clubs and headed out in cars in groups of four or five to patrol the main highway from Ben Yishai's home at Kiryat Arba, the Jewish settlement outside the Arab city of Hebron, to Jerusalem. They call themselves The Committee for Safe Traveling. The Army calls them vigilantes.

At times the "committee" does more than merely patrol. When an Israeli bus was stoned in the center of the Arab town of Halhoul in April, vigilantes set up a big roadblock and roamed the area. The next morning, residents found that the windshields of 20 cars had been smashed. Such incidents are increasingly common in this area and the perpetrators are seldom caught, although the Army warns that they will be treated as common criminals.

"The Army isn't doing its job so we are helping them," says Ben Yishai, cradling his baby daughter in his arms. "The Arabs are afraid of us. You can see on their faces. They know we have no problem protecting ourselves. The stick is the best weapon, not the gun. The Arab knows you will think twice before using the gun, but not to smash his face with a stick."

Ben Yishai is a member of Kach, Rabbi Meir Kahane's far-right political party, which advocates the forced expulsion of all Arabs from the biblical Land of Israel. The party commands the support of perhaps 3 percent of the Israeli electorate, but somewhere between 20 and 30 percent in this settlement, where many perceive themselves as besieged by both hostile Arabs and an uncaring, ambivalent government.

Most of the rest support Gush Emunim -- the "Bloc of the Faithful" -- whose members founded this community and the heavily guarded enclaves of Jewish settlement inside Hebron.

A combination of messianism and Zionism, Gush Emunim preaches that this land belongs to the Jewish people by divine right and that Jews and Arabs can live together in harmony so long as the Arabs recognize that they have no national rights here.

At best, this produces a kind of paternalism where Jews appoint themselves arbiters of the best interests of their disenfranchised Arab neighbors. At worst, it spawns terrorist groups like the Jewish Underground, which a few years ago engaged in bomb attacks and shootings against Arabs. Its members were rounded up in 1984, and 24 were convicted.

American immigrants make up a substantial portion of both groups. Many were drawn to Israel after the Six-Day War, seeking a Jewish identity and a sense of zealous certainty that was hard to come by in the United States of the late 1960s. Here they have found both.

Ben Yishai has scorn for the Gushniks. "Gush Emunim's philosophy is that if we build a high enough fence, we'll all be secure. It's like living in a big ghetto. It shows the Arabs that I'm afraid of them instead of them being afraid of me. You'll never see an Arab village with a big fence and security lights."

Elyakim Haetzni is a longtime Kiryat Arba resident and one of the main ideologists of Gush Emunim. He says the Kach movement, like the Israeli left, believes Jews and Arabs cannot live together and wants them separated. Kach wants the Arabs to go east across the Jordan, while Peace Now, on the left, wants Jews like Haetzni to return west to Israel's pre-1967 borders. Both, he says, are mistaken.

"But you know, in the end the dispute between me and Ben Yishai will be settled by the Arabs," says Haetzni. "If they choose to live in peace with us, then he will lose. But if they choose to make life so sour that a Jewish woman can't go to the marketplace or a Jewish family cannot drive safely on the roads, then they will have to leave." Scars at the Kalandia Refugee Camp

There is no welcome sign outside Kalandia refugee camp near Ramallah, but a 20-foot-high chain-link fence stretching along a 300-yard strip between the camp and the main highway. The fence, which resembles the backstop behind home plate on a baseball field, is designed to protect passing cars from rock throwers. Each year, residents say, Israeli authorities have made it a little higher.

Kalandia wears its scars proudly. Residents like to show visitors the youth center that has been boarded up and ringed with barbed wire since 1981, when someone tried to show a film deemed anti-Israeli by the authorities. Seven houses here have been demolished or had rooms sealed after occupants were arrested for alleged terrorism. The walls of shops and houses are splashed with graffiti calling for Palestinian unity and support for the PLO.

The occupation authorities contend that Israeli rule of the West Bank and Gaza is a success story. While still below Israeli levels, the standard of living has quadrupled in 20 years, infant-mortality rates have been halved and five universities exist, whereas before 1967 there were none.

The universities, however, were built with outside funds, mostly from the Arab and western world, and millions of dollars have flowed into the territories from Palestinians working the oil fields of the Arab emirates. Between 90,000 and 120,000 Arab laborers travel to Israel every day for work, at least partly because there has been little investment in industry and centers of employment on the West Bank under Israeli occupation.

The authorities are now engaged in a cooperative effort with Jordan's King Hussein to improve further the quality of life and produce moderate local leaders beholden to Hussein and not to the outlawed Palestine Liberation Organization. Part of this strategy is a crackdown on those considered PLO operatives, including a revival of such practices as six-month administrative detention and forced expulsion.

But none of this seems to have succeeded in pacifying the new generation of Palestinian students. Call it the frustration of rising expectations, as the Israeli authorities do, or resistance to an oppressive occupation, as the Palestinians describe it. Either way, both sides concede, it is tangible, angry and increasing, especially at the universities and at the 28 refugee camps that dot the territories.

Last December a 16-year-old schoolboy in Ramallah ran up behind an Israeli soldier, shouted "Long live Palestine" and plunged a short-handled ax into the back of the soldier's head. Not long before that, a pregnant 24-year-old Arab mother in Hebron was shot dead trying to slit the throat of a soldier with a kitchen knife. In February an Arab taxi driver was shot dead by soldiers he tried to run down with his car.

The incidents, all of them in broad daylight, suggest a shift in the nature of the struggle here. No longer is the Army fighting professional terrorists imported from outside the West Bank. Now, according to Gen. Ehud Barak, the Army's deputy chief of staff, about 80 percent of violent incidents are initiated locally, most of them by Palestinian youths.

The Army and the youths are locked into a vicious cycle, with each incident leading to a military response, which in turn often triggers another attack.

After Mousa Hanafi's death, the Army ordered Bir Zeit University closed for four months. Students seized Hanafi's body from a morgue to prevent the Israelis from ordering a quiet midnight burial. They wrapped him in an outlawed Palestinian flag and buried him in full political splendor outside his hometown of Rafah, where the funeral set off another day of rioting and tear gas.

"These kids have grown up in a sense with the barrel of the gun over their noses," says Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian newspaper editor. "So from their limited point of view, they believe might is right, that if you have power you can rule the world. The Army may have the guns, but they have stones and they have numbers. The Army patrol may pass by every four hours, but for the rest of the time the kids rule the streets."

These young Palestinians have few heroes. The local leaders they looked up to have been deported or jailed. Lip service is paid to PLO figures such as Yasser Arafat and George Habash, but the young Palestinians also express the feeling that they have been abandoned by both the PLO and the Arab world in general. A few speak glowingly about Abu Nidal; the nihilism of his terrorist group strikes a chord in a desperate generation. Others have embraced Islamic fundamentalism, which is growing in popularity not only on the West Bank but among Israeli Arabs as well.

In many ways their future is a dead end. Opportunities for skilled professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers are limited on the West Bank. The fall of oil prices has put an end to the demand for such professionals to work in the oil states. For most, their fate will be decided here because they have no place else to go.

Even the majority who do not engage in violence appear to approve of those who do. A poll sponsored by Kuttab's newspaper, Al Fajr, last summer among residents in the occupied territories found that 93 percent supported the PLO and 61 percent said armed struggle was the most effective tactic. Israeli authorities tried to discredit the poll because Al Fajr is pro-PLO, but most analysts say the survey generally reflects the mood of the area's better educated and younger residents.

"People don't feel they have anything to lose," says Kuttab. "And when you have nothing, you want everything, so it's not surprising that they take extreme positions and want maximalist solutions." The Rock Throwers

In a small office in one of Kalandia's training centers, 10 Palestinians aged 14 through 23 -- six males and four females -- gathered recently to talk about the occupation and themselves, speaking on condition that their last names not be used.

All but one said he or she had thrown rocks or bottles at Israeli soldiers or at cars, and all said they would do it again. Five had been arrested at various times, and others had close friends or relatives who had been. Most say the only Israelis they ever met were soldiers and police.

They throw rocks, they say, because they have no way of effectively protesting the occupation. There have been no local elections here in 11 years, ever since a group of pro-PLO mayors were swept into office -- and later deposed by the Israelis. They feel they have no control over their lives or their political fate, so they lash out. If they had guns and bullets, they say, they would use them.

"We have felt insecure ever since we were born," says Samaa, 23, a Bir Zeit student. "Violence is the only way the whole world will see us and hear us. They see us as terrorists, but this way is the only way."

Most deny that they hate Jews. "Our revolution is not against any specific person but for the sake of preserving our rights," says Jamal, 20, the most eloquent -- and most frequently arrested -- of the group. "If there is any hatred, it is not Moslem against Jew but Palestinian against Zionist."

Nonetheless, Jamal says that if he ever reached his dream of a secular state of Palestine, he would apply a simple solution for the Jews living there: The 600,000 who came before Israeli independence in 1948 could stay, but the rest would have to return to where they came from.

"We don't want to drive the Jews into the sea," says Jamal. "But the Jew who came from Poland must go back to Poland. Why not? It is his home."

How do they feel about the death of Ofra Moses? The answers are uniformly harsh. "We do not want to kill women and children, but all Israelis are enemies to us," says Abir, 23. "They are creating a sort of retaliation by killing children, men and women in the occupied territories and in the camps in Lebanon. They have killed thousands of us with their guns and their cluster bombs, so it is hard to feel sad when one of them dies."

Omar, 17, offers a theory that many of the others endorse. "Maybe it was done by the Shin Bet because they want to confiscate more of our land," he says. The Shin Bet is Israel's security police.

Nihad, 14, has a more stark explanation. "For every action," he says, "there is a reaction."

Rashid Erakat, 58, the U.N. area officer in charge of Kalandia, shakes his head at the militancy expressed at the roundtable, but says he is not surprised. "I tell them not to throw stones at the soldiers," he says. "They respect me, but they say it's our turn now."

Erakat predicts that there will be "more killings, more arrests, more collective punishment, and these children will become more fierce. I may be able to control myself, but I can't control my son." A March Through Jericho

Gush Emunim decided to celebrate Israel's independence day in May with a march through Jericho, an Arab city that the group is targeting for future Jewish settlement. The idea, says general secretary Daniella Weiss, was to show Israelis and Arabs alike that Jews have the right to settle anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel.

Before the march, Gush members distributed a pamphlet in Arabic that had been written by Haetzni. It implored Arab residents to welcome Jewish rule, portraying the young zealots of Gush Emunim as a sort of benevolent Israeli peace corps: "Go out and see how settlement and Jewish neighbors have brought you livelihood, homes, television sets, cars and a standard of living you and your forefathers never dreamed of . . . . Your infant mortality has ceased because of the Zionist blessing. When we settle in Jericho, you will also enjoy blessings and prosperity."

"Under our rule," it said, "your future is assured. We are extending a hand for peace and good-neighborliness. Please don't reject it."

But when the day came, Arab residents seemed to have disappeared, and the streets of Jericho were virtually empty except for the marchers and the soldiers who lined the route. The only Arabs in sight were cafe owners who did a brisk business selling drinks to some of the thousands of hot, sweaty marchers.

As the procession turned off the main street, a group of Arab children stood watching from a front yard, a mixture of curiosity and defiance on their faces. For them, Haetzni's paternalistic plea had rung false. The conflict would not end so easily.

Some flashed the "V" sign mimicking PLO leader Arafat. A girl of about 15 turned to a reporter. "Write in that newspaper that the Jews are bad and the Arabs are good," she said. "Palestine is ours."

NEXT: Jerusalem, the grand prize