Rafi grew up in Tel Aviv in the atmosphere that characterized the area before the establishment of the State of Israel. In his teens he was very active in the Gadna (paramilitary corps) as an instructor. Rafi enlisted in 1947, just a few months before the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) was founded. During his military service he carried on as an instructor. At that time many new courses were formed in the IDF and Rafi was chosen time and again, either as a trainee or an instructor, to be in the first of several of these courses, which shaped the ethical approach of the IDF in its early days.
In 1950 Rafi completed his regular army service and for the next 17 years he devoted much of his time and skills to reserve duty as an officer in the 8th Brigade. In the early years he held various commanding positions in the Brigade’s Infantry Battalion, and in 1960 he was appointed Commander of the Brigade’s 87th Reconnaissance Company. In his years as Reconnaissance Company Commander, he reached the rank of Major.
June 1967, the Six Day War. The Brigade in which Rafi serves is charged with the breakthrough battle of the Golan Heights. The battle plan is to flank an area covered with scores of Syrian military posts – the area of “Kala”. Rafi assembles a Reconnaissance Team whose role is to lead the Brigade, and takes upon himself to head the Team. The battle is fraught with complications and disorder. The speeding tanks of the Brigade drive past the Reconnaissance Team and continue in the wrong direction. Their erroneous route leads them to the dangerous area that must be avoided. Dedicated to his mission, Rafi does everything he can to restore the course of the battle and prevent the casualties the Brigade will suffer later on at Kala. When the Commander of the Tank Battalion is wounded, Rafi volunteers and is appointed Battalion Commander in his place, and at the Brigade Commander’s order he continues his efforts to steer the tanks in the planned direction.
At the height of these efforts, while fighting as a Battalion Commander – Rafi is wounded.