September 19, 2019

Arik Rashkes on the Legacy of His Father Moshe, the Book ‘Days Of Lead’ and more

Moshe Rashkes

“Days Of Lead: Defying Death During Israel’s War Of Independence” is the page-turning true story of a young soldier’s brave escapades during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. This incredible account is a story of determination and heroism, but also a stinging portrait of life on the battlefield. Far from a regular coming-of-age story, this is a first-hand account of a young man trying desperately to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, but watching them taken down one-by-one until he’s the last man alive on his platoon. It’s heartrending but enthralling.

In a personal letter to the book’s author Moshe Rashkes, Israel’s founder and first prime minister David Ben-Gurion — one of many well-known celebrators of the book—wrote: “I started reviewing your book without the intention of reading to its end, but from the first pages I was captivated and I read it to the end through excitement and astonishment. From where all of a sudden pops up such mighty expression, truth-telling, and wonderful description? It seems to me that until now I have not read such a precise and true story of combat from the War of Independence… You have contributed a valuable asset… to our literature at large.”

The book’s author Moshe Rashkes sadly passed away earlier this year, and I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with his son Arik about “Days Of Lead” and more.

Author photo of young Moshe

Jewish Journal: How would you describe “Days Of Lead” to someone who never read it?

Arik Rashkes: “Days Of Lead” is a true story of a young Israeli soldier during the war of independence in 1948. It is written from the soldier’s perspective and therefore provides an intimate look into his own thoughts and feelings throughout the war. It’s a story of survival, not of extraordinary heroism. Ultimately, this is part of the story of the formation of Israel as an independent state.

JJ: How long did your father spend writing it?

AR: My father spent about five years writing this book. He described it as therapy. Putting his memories on paper allowed him the let go and forget some of these horrible psychological and physical scars he carried after the war. With no high school diploma and no writing skills, he was able to create a beautiful memoir that was hailed by many.

JJ: Is “Days Of Lead” your favorite thing that your dad worked on?

AR: It is. My father wrote three more books after this one. They are all good and have gained success however, “Days Of Lead” is special because it’s his very own story. Reading this book allowed me to picture my father in all these impossible situations. I have utmost respect to his ability to overcome such horrific challenges early in his life. No doubt, it defined who he was as a person and probably also as a father.

JJ: Is there something you wish more people knew about your father?

AR: I wish people knew how humble he was. It does come through the story but it really was his way of life. A lot like the Biblical Moses, my father was somewhat of a quiet leader. He dedicated his life to helping others. Disabled War Veterans initially and disabled children thereafter. He helped thousands of peoples’ rehabilitation, bringing pride and purpose to their lives.

JJ: What are you personally working on at the moment?

AR: I am working on perpetuating my father’s legacy. My wife and I joined the board of the American Friends of the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled to support the amazing organization my father founded 50 years ago.

JJ: Finally, Arik, any last words for the kids?

AR: Yes. Be humble and work hard. Pursue the things that matter most. Help others and support your community. Do not be naive and always keep your guard on but use your other hand to always strive for peace.