Rebecca Hakim-Dowek was born in 1925 in Tiberius in what was then known as British Mandated Palestine, now Israel. The youngest of three children, Rebecca went to school in Lebanon from an early age and returned to Tiberius in the holidays. During the Second World War travel became difficult and the family were separated, her mother and recently widowed sister in Lebanon, her and her father in Tiberius and her brother studying abroad. She began to work in Lebanon and remained there until 1975, when she moved to France with her husband and children. They settled in the UK in 1976.