Early life and military career
Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv, Israel, to Tzila Segal (28 August 1912 – 31 January 2000) who had been born in Petah Tikva in the Ottoman Empire's Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, and a Warsaw-born father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu (1910–2012). He was the second of three children. He discovered via a DNA test that he is, in part, of Sephardi Jewish ancestry. He was initially raised and educated in Jerusalem, where he attended Henrietta Szold Elementary School. A copy of his evaluation from his 6th grade teacher Ruth Rubenstein indicated that Netanyahu was courteous, polite, and helpful; that his work was "responsible and punctual"; and that he was friendly, disciplined, cheerful, brave, active and obedient.
Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, his family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, while father Benzion Netanyahu taught at Dropsie College.
Benjamin attended and graduated from Cheltenham High School and was active in the debate club, chess club, and soccer. He and his brother Yonatan grew dissatisfied with a perceived superficial way of life they encountered in the area, including the prevalent youth counterculture movement, literary interpretation focused on individualized feelings, and the liberal sensibilities of the Reform synagogue, Temple Judea of Philadelphia, that the family attended. To this day, he speaks fluent English, with a noticeable Philadelphia accent.
I have great respect for the unit. This is a unit that changes the reality of our lives even though its actions are a secret. Although it is a small unit, it influences all branches of the military ... My service in the unit strengthened my understanding of the risks involved behind approving operations and the risks that fighters are taking on. It is tangible and not theoretical for me.
Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sayeret Matkal, (Maariv 2007)
After graduating from high school in 1967, Netanyahu returned to Israel to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. He trained as a combat soldier and served for five years in an elite special forces unit of the IDF, Sayeret Matkal. He took part in numerous cross-border assault raids during the 1967–70 War of Attrition, rising to become a team-leader in the unit. He was wounded in combat on multiple occasions. He was involved in many other missions, including Operation Inferno (1968), and the rescue of the hijacked Sabena Flight 571 in May 1972 in which he was shot in the shoulder.