New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind spent the Purim festival in Sderot, learning first-hand what it means to live under fire and delivering love from US Jews.

IsraelNationalRadio’s Yishai Fleisher interviewed the 48th District (Brooklyn’s) Jewish state representative about what brought him to Sderot and what he sees for the future of Jewish leadership on both sides of the Atlantic.

Click here to listen to complete interview

“Those of us who care deeply about the well-being of Israel have watched the events unfold here,” Hikind explained, “particularly what is happening in Sderot. And, you know I, and others, have a desire to do something. Not to sit back quietly and kvetch [complain]…Three days and three nights is not a lot, but at least it is something.”

Assemblyman Dov Hikind & Rubin Margules, on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America, distributing mishloach manot

Hikind said he was deeply affected by talking to mothers and fathers in Sderot about how they deal with their children when the Color Red alert goes off, signaling an incoming rocket from Gaza.

“There was one woman, Atara Fernbuch, who I spoke to,” he said. “[She] described to me what it was like driving her kids to school - three or four of them - when the red alert goes off. Having to decide which door to open, which kid to grab and where to run; just the horror of having to deal with this on a regular basis. Never knowing when the next Kassam is going to fall and where it is going to fall.”

A Purim party in Sderot sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America's Rubin Margules

People from the tri-state area donated over $50,000 for Hikind to bring with him to Sderot, “in order to bring mishloach manos [holiday food gifts] to every person in this community,” he said.

Hikind dancing with the students in Yeshiva Sderot on Purim

Hikind and the ZOA distributing mishloach manot to IDF soldiers at the Kissufim Crossing, formerly used by the Jews of Gush Katif to reach their homes

Hikind says he worries about Sderot and Israel’s future. “Our enemies know what they are doing. They are dedicated, in their own sick kind of way, to what they are doing. The main problem is our leadership. There is no leadership in Israel. The problem is, I’ll say it straight out, the cowardice of the prime minister.

“You and I remember that after the Jews were thrown out of Gush Katif - I’ll never forget the words of the Minister of Defense and the words of Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister at the time – ‘If they shoot even one rocket, we will devastate the enemy. We will teach them.’ And our enemies heard them and they laughed.

“The people of Sderot, their children – their five year olds – have become soldiers.  They know where to run and hide when the Kassams are coming. And they ask: ‘Where are our IDF soldiers? Where is our protection?’”

Hikind said it is obvious that Israelis are fed up with Olmert, but that until they see what is going on in Sderot, complacency is allowing the Olmert government to stay in power. “I urge every Israeli to go to Sderot for a day,” he said. “You have such amazing people there. So dedicated, with such faith.”

The New York politician says he always knew Ehud Olmert was a nihilist. “He has been in my home many times and he knows me,” he said. “He is a man who believes in nothing. He can be a rightist Sunday and a leftist Monday. I always knew this. It is pathetic that he is still prime minister.”

Hikind said that he still hopes for the best with Netanyahu, but reminded people not to put their faith too much in people, but in G-d.

“There is a lack of [Jewish] leadership in the United States as well,” he said. “Just think about it. Who is in charge? Who tells people what to do? You open Anglo newspapers and it’s 30 pages of where to go for Passover, including Spain and Egypt.”

The people, Hikind says though, “the regular ‘amcha’ Jews very much want to do something. The money we raised came from hundreds and hundreds of Jews all over town.” The longtime activist says that now, more than ever, regular Jews are bypassing their lack of leadership and expressing their willingness to help their fellow Jews in Israel.