As a patriotic Israeli in the 50s, Rafi’s decision to study agriculture was only natural. He studied at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture and specialized in soil and water sciences. He identified the matters important to the agriculture and to the soil and water economy in Israel, and chose them as topics for his research.
During his studies Rafi realized that the qualitative research approach, that was customary at the Faculty of Agriculture at the time, would limit the progress of soil research. He believed the future of research was in the quantitative-mathematical approach. He wanted to know what happens inside the soil system on a microscopic level, and aspired to get to the root of the problems and formulate them mathematically. But the courses in the Faculty of Agriculture did not offer the required mathematical and physical subjects and later Rafi decided to study them on his own. As an instructor in the lab, he engrossed a group of students and together they studied physical chemistry of the soil.
In 1964, Rafi completed his post doctorate in the USA, returned to Israel, and became a senior lecturer at the Technion in Haifa. With his typical fervour, he initiated the establishment of an innovative unit for soil research that focused on subjects in physical chemistry of the soil, that had not been researched in the Technion before. He also developed a course in physical chemistry of the soil, the first of its kind in Israel.
The changes that Rafi led in the Faculty of Agriculture and at the Technion, assimilated the quantitative approach in the studies of soil in Israel, and formed the foundation for modern research of soil science in the country.