Raphael was born on October 25, 1928 in Komotini, Greece to Avraham and Rachel née Hananel. The family made aliyah in 1934 and faced severe economic difficulties. Rafi had three brothers and two sisters. He studied in Yesud HaMaala and in the Bialik School in Tel Aviv. He was a member of HaShomer HaTza’ir and the youth company in Kibbutz Tal-Amal over the course of many years.
In 1943, he left the kibbutz to get a job to support the family, working as an electrician’s apprentice. He also joined the Gadna at the same time.
In 1944 he reached an ideological turning point, and once he was convinced of the need to remove the British from the Land of Israel, he joined Lehi. He began putting up posters, an activity which brought him into conflict with Hagana men who tried to stop him.
His Lehi activities included many operations, among them confiscating funds to support the fight (for example, he was part of the great Barclays Bank robbery on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv, under the command of Blond Dov, in which two British officers in an armored vehicle were killed), bombing the rails, seizing a mail-truck, blowing up the British headquarters in Sarona (HaKirya) and abducting a couple to interrogate them on suspicion of collaboration with the enemy. These were only some of his missions.
When Lehi’s members enlisted en masse in the IDF at Sheikh Munis, Rafi joined them. Once they had made it to the absorption and sorting center, he found himself in the commando Battalion 89 of the 8th Brigade, under the command of Moshe Dayan. He fought at Yahudiyeh, Dir Tarif, Qula, Beit Naballah and Ben-Shemen. He was part of the raids on Lod and Ramleh; the operation to open a road to the Negev; and the capture of Beit Guvrin, where he was injured. A week later, he came back to his unit, taking part in the siege of Faluja. He also was part of the attack on the Galilee and the conquest of Kafr Kanna and Kafr Kama.
In Operation Yoav, he was part of the assault on Auja el-Hafir. His half-track was hit and burst into flame, killing two of his comrades. Rafi and another comrade were injured. In this same battle, Blond Dov and many other good men were killed. Rafi would go on to raid and capture the police fort at Faluja.
After the war, he got a job doing body work on cars. In 1955, he married Rivka Becker, and they had a son and two daughters.
He passed away on December 25,2017.