Leah Schlossberg was 15 in 1943 when she strolled by a Tel Aviv ice-cream stand in British-controlled Palestine and spotted a handsome young Jewish commando officer. “He looked to me like King David,” she later wrote of Yitzhak Rabin, whom she married in 1948, the year of Israel’s independence.
When Leah Rabin died Nov. 12 of complications from melanoma at 72, she had done all she could to keep alive the peacemaking process set in motion by her husband, Israel’s late prime minister, slain by a right-wing extremist in 1995. “Even at moments when the nation was confused,” said former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, “her voice was clear, certain and pointed the way.”
She was born in Germany, but when Hitler took power in 1933 her father sold his dry-goods business and moved the family to Palestine. After Leah wed Rabin, he rose in the army ranks, becoming chief of staff, while she raised their daughter Dalia, now 50, and son Yuval, 45, and volunteered on behalf of autistic children and other causes. It was a balanced marriage. “He was quiet and she was a talker,” says a friend. “He smiled and she laughed.” Rabin served two terms as prime minister, making history as the first Israeli head of state to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. After Rabin’s death, Leah never hesitated to criticize his successors. But she always held out hope for the embattled peace effort. “It might be a painful process,” she said last year, “but we…shall arrive at a successful end.”