HADERA, Israel - She refused to cry. But there was no masking the rage that Yaffa Yaacoby aimed at the four young men, one bearing a sub-machine gun, who came to her house yesterday to pay their respects to her dead daughter.
"Tell me," she asked the men, all members of a small settlement near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron, "is it worth it - the cave, the holy places - for my daughter and the other people who died? I speak from my heart. Look at me. I am only 40 years old. Today and every day after this, I have to wake up and face the fact that I buried my daughter.
"Do you realize there isn't a piece of land worth these lives?"
And so, in grief, a central argument in Israel society played itself out in a living room here as the Yaacoby family sat shiva for their oldest daughter, Keren, 19, killed Thursday with a fellow soldier by Palestinian gunmen while guarding a settlement.
She was the first female soldier to die in combat since fighting broke out anew in 2000. Her death has received intense media coverage here, primarily because the Yaacoby family has been outspoken in asking why Israeli soldiers like their daughter are guarding the settlement of only 450 Jews, amid about 150,000 Palestinians.
Most broadly, many Israelis argue that all the Jewish settlements dotted around the West Bank and Gaza Strip are a block to an ultimate peace settlement, and an unnecessary danger to the soldiers who guard them. The settlements, they argue, also stand as a daily provocation to the Palestinians.
Settlers say that the West Bank is their Biblical birthright and a buffer of security against Arab states. They argue that settlements are an investment in holding on to that land that justifies an army presence.
Feelings about the settlements are complex, and no less so for the Yaacoby family. They say they do not oppose all settlements. But they are adamantly against the Israeli army guarding the isolated Hebron settlement, where last month 12 Israeli soldiers, border police officers and security guards were killed in an ambush only a few yards from where Keren died.
"I feel they sacrificed my daughter on the altar of the fanatic Jews in Hebron," Yigal Yaacoby said. "I feel the army must go out of Hebron and leave the settlers to protect themselves. It may be the Holy Land, but it's a very dangerous land."
Tensions in Hebron are running high. The settlers erected buildings on the site of last month's attack, and the government plans to raze Palestinian houses to build a protected walkway to a larger settlement.