yitzhak rabin

8 Things You Didn’t Know About Yitzhak Rabin

The unusual circumstances of Rabin's marriage, his true feelings about Moshe Dayan, and other lesser-known facts about the legendary Israeli leader.

1) He failed the entrance exam to agricultural school
Rabin attended the Kadoorie Agricultural High School in the Galilee, where he excelled. But he almost didn’t make it in, initially failing the school’s entrance exam.

2) Rabin helped save Jerusalem during the War of Independence
The struggle for Jerusalem was a major facet of the 1948 war, and Rabin’s job, as head of the Harel Brigade, was to secure the convoys that were essential to resupplying the city. The fighting took a heavy toll, with a casualty rate of 50 percent for the brigade.

3) Rabin married his wife Leah in the middle of a war
Rabin met Leah Schlossberg on the street in Tel Aviv in 1944 and they married four years later, during a lull in fighting of the 1948 war. For four years, they lived with her parents in Tel Aviv before moving into military housing in 1952.

4) Rabin never joined a kibbutz
Unlike most of Israel’s founding generation, Rabin never joined a kibbutz, the collective farms essential to Israel’s development in its early years. He never explained this decision, which some attribute to his solitary disposition.

5) Rabin did not think much of Moshe Dayan
In a 1949 letter to Yigal Alon, Rabin’s mentor and the recently deposed head of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, Rabin seriously dissed Moshe Dayan, who would later earn a reputation as a legendary military leader: “The guy has no idea. In my view he lacks minimal military understanding on a scale larger than a company or a battalion. Totally tactless in dealing with people.”

6) Rabin was the first native-born Israeli prime minister
Following the resignation of Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1974, Rabin assumed the leadership of the Labor party and became prime minister later that year, the first person born in Israel to assume the post. (Rabin was born in Jerusalem in 1922.)

7) Rabin once openly defied a direct order from David Ben Gurion
In 1949, David Ben Gurion issued an order banning army officers from attending a conference of the Palmach, a pre-state militia that had been disbanded with the establishment of the Israel Defense Forces. Rabin later fully acknowledged his disobedience in an interview with the IDF’s chief of staff. “I admit breaching the order,” Rabin said. “I had a sense of personal loyalty towards friends.”

8) Rabin was not a natural politician
Despite decades spent at the upper echelons of Israeli power, Rabin was often described as shy, awkward, introverted, and uncomfortable with the kind of small talk and pressing of the flesh typically required of political candidates. “Picking up the phone and asking a complete stranger for his vote was a herculean task for Rabin,” Itamar Rabinovich wrote in the biography, “Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman.”

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