Rabin was born at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem on 1 March 1922, Mandatory Palestine, to Nehemiah (1886 – 1 December 1971) and Rosa (née Cohen; 1890 – 12 November 1937) Rabin, immigrants of the Third Aliyah, the third wave of Jewish immigration to Palestine from Europe. Nehemiah was born Nehemiah Rubitzov in the shtetl Sydorovychi near Ivankiv in the southern Pale of Settlement (present-day Ukraine). His father Menachem died when he was a boy, and Nehemiah worked to support his family from an early age. At the age of 18, he emigrated to the United States, where he joined the Poale Zion party and changed his surname to Rabin. In 1917, Nehemiah Rabin went to Mandatory Palestine with a group of volunteers from the Jewish Legion.
Yitzhak's mother, Rosa Cohen, was born in 1890 in Mogilev in Belarus. Her father, a rabbi, opposed the Zionist movement and sent Rosa to a Christian high school for girls in Gomel, which gave her a broad general education. Early on, Rosa took an interest in political and social causes. In 1919, she traveled to Palestine on the steamship Ruslan. After working on a kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, she moved to Jerusalem.
Rabin's parents met in Jerusalem during the 1920 Nebi Musa riots. They moved to Tel Aviv's Chlenov Street near Jaffa in 1923. Nehemiah became a worker for the Palestine Electric Corporation and Rosa was an accountant and local activist. She became a member of the Tel Aviv City Council. The family moved again in 1931 to a two-room apartment on Hamagid Street in Tel Aviv.
Early life and education
Rabin grew up in Tel Aviv, where the family relocated when he was one year old. He enrolled in the Tel Aviv Beit Hinuch Leyaldei Ovdim (בית חינוך לילדי עובדים, "School House for Workers' Children") in 1928 and completed his studies there in 1935. The school taught the children agriculture as well as Zionism. Rabin mostly received good marks in school, but he was so shy that few people knew he was intelligent.
In 1935, Rabin enrolled at an agricultural school on kibbutz Givat Hashlosha that his mother founded. It was here in 1936 at the age of 14 that Rabin joined the Haganah and received his first military training, learning how to use a pistol and stand guard. He joined a socialist-Zionist youth movement, HaNoar HaOved.
In 1937, he enrolled at the two-year Kadoorie Agricultural High School. He excelled in a number of agriculture-related subjects but disliked studying English language—the language of the British "enemy." He originally aspired to be an irrigation engineer, but his interest in military affairs intensified in 1938, when the ongoing Arab revolt worsened. A young Haganah sergeant named Yigal Allon, later a general in the IDF and prominent politician, trained Rabin and others at Kadoorie. Rabin finished at Kadoorie in August 1940. For part of 1939, the British closed Kadoorie, and Rabin joined Allon as a military policeman at Kibbutz Ginosar until the school re-opened. When he finished school, Rabin considered studying irrigation engineering on scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley, although he ultimately decided to stay and fight in Palestine.