12 Things You Need to Know About… Yitzhak Rabin

Israeli statesman

1.  Nehemiah Rubitzov, from the Ukraine, emigrated to  the United States, where he changed his name to Rabin. Then, in 1917, he made aliyah to Palestine as part of the Jewish legion. He met the woman who would become his wife, and in March of 1922, Yitzhak Rabin was born. He grew up in Tel Aviv, where his parents moved when he was a year old. His mother was one of the first members of the Haganah.

2. Yitzhak Rabin graduated with distinction in 1940 from an agricultural high school, with the goal of becoming an irrigation engineer.

3. In 1941 he joined the Palmach and saw service in the first half of that year in the allied invasion of Lebanon.

YitzhakRabin19484. He continued in the Palmach, and after the war planned and executed the raid on the Atlith detention camp in October 1945. Two years later, he became Chief Operations Officer of the Palmach.

5. In 1948, he married Leah Schlossberg. In the war following Israel’s declaration of statehood, Rabin served as commander of the Harel Brigade and fought on the road to Jerusalem. He directed operations in Jerusalem and fought the Egyptians in the Negev. He was deputy commander of Operation Danny, involving four IDF brigades in capturing the cities of Ramle and Lydda. His duties were fraught with difficulty: he signed orders there for the expulsion of the Arab population.

6. In 1949, he move from warrior to peacemaker, taking part in the delegation to the armistice talks on Rhodes that led to the end of hostilities with the Arab nations.

7. By 1964, he’d become Chief of Staff of the IDF. The forces were under his command in the Six-Day War of 1967, and he was among the first to visit the Old City of Jerusalem after its capture.

8. In 1968 he was appointed ambassador to the United States, a position he held for five years.

9. He became Minister of Labor in March 1974 under Golda Meir and then Prime Minister in his own right in June of that year – the fifth prime minister of Israel, and the first to have been native-born. He was to serve from 1974 to 1977 and again from 1992 until his death in 1995. Operation Entebbe, the successful effort to rescue hijacked Israeli airline passengers, was carried out under his orders in the first year of his tenure. In the following years, he focused on improving the economy, solving social problems and strengthening the IDF.

Unknown-310. He continued as a member of the Knesset on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and served as Minister of Defense 1984-90. Perhaps he is best known for his role in the 1993 Oslo Accords, setting up a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, “for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.” In his acceptance speech he said, “Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life.”

11. He also oversaw the signing of the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace in 1994. But his signing of the Oslo Accords brought him calumny from right-wingers, and in 1995 he was assassinated by a young radical.

12. He was buried on Mt. Herzl, hundreds of world leaders attending his funeral. The Knesset set aside the 12th of Cheshvan in the Jewish calendar as his official memorial; but many Israelis follow the secular date of November 4th. In 1995, a commemorative stamp was issued in his memory. Ten years later, in 2005, he was voted number one in a poll of the greatest Israelis – a man of war who became a statesman working for peace.

Unknown-1“We, who have fought against you, the Palestinians – we say to you today, in a loud and clear voice: enough of blood and tears…enough!”

Besides Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, you’ll find streets, neighborhoods, schools, bridges, and parks named for Rabin throughout Israel, as well as streets in Bonn, Berlin and New York and parks in Montreal, Paris, Rome and Lima.


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