Yitzhak Rabin (Pronounced: Rabeen) was born in Jerusalem on March 1st 1922 to Nehemia and Rosa Cohen. His parents were active members of Achdut Haavoda, a Labour movement, his father an employee of the Israel Electric Company and his mother a member of the Hagana Organization and a City Council Member in Tel-Aviv.

Most of Yitzhak Rabin’s childhood years were spent in Tel-Aviv, first in a southern part of town bordering Jaffa and later in the town center. His primary school years were spent together with the children of the Labour party activists, he later enrolled at Givat Hashlosha High School when a short time later his mother became very ill, and the young student was transferred to Kaduri boarding school in northern Israel.

Yitzhak Rabin 1937

An agricultural school attended by many of the country’s future leaders, the school was attacked several times by Arab gangs and the students soon had to take part in defending the place. At the end of his first year in Kaduri the school was shut down by order of the British mandate, and Rabin spent the next year participating in guard duties and defense ambushes in Kibbutz Geinossar where he started taking part in the activities of the Hagana.

In 1940 Rabin graduated with Honors from Kaduri, and planning to continue his studies at Berkley University in California. The Second World War changed his plans and he postponed his studies. Rabin then joined the movement Hanoar Haaoved and deepened his involvement in the Hagana, starting his military service by joining the military movement the Palmach in 1941 and holding the rank of a platoon commander and later as a Regiment commander. He continued with the Plamach and received a promotion to Commander of the Harel Division, the force that was later responsible for opening the road to Jerusalem during the war of Independence in 1948.

Yitzhak Rabin married Lea Shlosberg in 1948 and the couple had two children, Dalia and Yuval. During the war of Independence Rabin served as Operations Officer of the Southern Command, later to be promoted to the post of Commander of the Southern Command advancing in the coming years to the rank of General.

Yitzhak Rabin in the army

After serving as Commander of the Northern Command in 1956 he was promoted to the post of deputy chief of staff in 1961, and in 1964 was appointed to the post of Chief of Staff. His years as chief of staff were difficult, active years and included the defense against terror campaigns initiated by the Fatah Organization, the Syrian attempts to divert the Jordan river sources, and the Six Day War in 1967. Rabin was considered among the most successful Chiefs of Staff and as one of the architects of the “six day war” victory.

Yitzhak Rabin’s political life began in 1968 when he was appointed to Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, during his service there he established very good relations with the American Administration, starting what turned out to be a long period of support and cooperation with the US. In the coming years Rabin’s political life developed as a member of the Labour Party, serving in different capacities.

In 1964 Rabin was elected to be the Chairman of the Labour Party and after winning the elections became the first Israeli born Prime Minster. During his tenure as Prime Minister the inflation in Israel was reduced from 54% to 24% and the 1975 “Memorandum of Understanding” was signed between the U.S. and Israel.

In 1976 he gave his approval to operation “Thunder Ball” in Antibes. The daring IDF Special Forces operation released 228 Israeli passengers and 12 crew members from Air France flight 139 that was hijacked and flown to Antibes, Uganda. The operation was hailed as one of the most daring operations in anti-terror warfare history.

In spite of his achievements Rabin was lacking political experience. On the Friday evening, just prior to the beginning of the Shabbat (Saturday) December 10th, 1976, Three F15 planes landed in Israel. The new additions to the Israeli Air Force were well received by some but religious leaders did not approve. In 1976 his party’s coalition with the religious parties fell apart. In Match 1977, an investigative reporter uncovered the existence of a personal US bank account held by Rabin’s wife. Forbidden at the time, the scandal prompted his withdrawal from candidacy and Shimon Peres took over as Labour Party Chairman resulting in a drop in elections from 51 to 32 electoral votes.

For the next Seven years Yitzhak Rabin served as a member of parliament and published a book titled “The Service Book”. During the years 1984 to 1990, he served as Defense Minister in the “Unified Government” headed by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir (Likud Party).

In 1992 Rabin won the preliminary elections of his party and was elected to be the chairman of the Labour Party, later that year his party won the national elections and Rabin became the Prime Minister again.

On September 13th 1993, following secret negotiations in Oslo and the first official recognition of Fatah as the representative of the Palestinian people by Israel, an agreement was signed by Rabin and Yasser Arafat in Washington, the agreement was a recognized as a “Declaration of Principles” between Israel and the Palestinians (the Oslo Agreement). In essence the agreement described a scheduled withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and the Palestinian right to self-government within those areas through the creation of the Palestinian Authority. In Knesset the vote was 61 for, 50 opposed and 9 abstained.

Oslo signing Yitzhak Rabin

On May 4th 1994 Rabin signed the “Gaza-Jericho” agreement in Cairo, the agreement dealt with the implementation of the first stage of the declaration of principles. In 1994 the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed in Eilat, and at the end of that year, Rabin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat for their efforts to achieve peace in the region.

Rabin’s second term as Prime Minister was characterized by the relentless efforts to reach peace agreements with the Arab countries and the Palestinians, in extensive investments in infrastructure and education in Israel, and in the fruitful cooperation between him and Shimon Peres serving as his foreign Minister.
Yitzhak Rabin’s readiness to initiate the move of establishing peace with the Palestinian people brought unprecedented acceptance for Israel in the world community, the cancellation of the Arab boycott (at least officially), considerable increase in international investments in Israel and renewal of diplomatic relations with many foreign states.

In contradiction to the International success, the internal situation was marred by vicious terrorist attacks, and growing objection to the peace process. Threats on Rabin’s life became more frequent and some of his public appearances turned into riots of incitements and violence by the right.

On Saturday evening the 4th of November 1995, Rabin attended a public rally supporting the peace process in Tel-Aviv, the rally was named “Yes to Peace-No to Violence”. In his speech Rabin warned about the dangers of violence to Israeli democracy. Over 100,000 supporters attended what was called the largest rally in Israel’s history.

Yitzhak Rabin Peace Rally

Yitzhak Rabin Peace Rally

After the rally, coming down the stairs of the Tel Aviv Municipality building and about to get into his car, Yigal Amir, an orthodox student, approached Yitzhak Rabin from the back and shot him three times.

Yigal Amir

Rabin’s murder shocked Israeli society to its core and many around the world. The public mourning was mixed with bitter debate dealing with the responsibility of violent inciters against Rabin including religious leaders of the right, this debate continues even today, Ten years after Rabin’s murder and will probably continue in the coming years. He is sorely missed.

Yitzhak Rabin Memorial