Israeli police said Tuesday they are searching for a Lakewood resident studying in Yeshiva who disappeared while on a hike in a forest outside Jerusalem last week.
Twenty-three-year-old Aharon Sofer of Lakewood, New Jersey, was last seen Friday, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
He said the police were pursuing all avenues in their investigation, including the possibility that Sofer may have fallen victim to an attack by Palestinian terrorists.
Rosenfeld said that police have launched an extensive search for Sofer, who is a student at Reb Tzvi Kaplan’s Yeshiva. Sofer’s parents have flown to Israel.
Rosenfeld said Sofer was with a friend when he disappeared during a hike in the Jerusalem Forest. He said authorities have interviewed the friend and “are looking in all different directions” for Sofer.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith and other New Jersey politicians attended a news conference Tuesday to draw attention to the missing student.
“I want the community to know that I believe no stone is being unturned,” said Smith, a Republican who has written to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking for aid in the search.
At Tuesday’s gathering in Lakewood, the missing man’s brother, Yaahkov Sofer, pleaded, “Please bring him back.” He declined to speak further about his brother, who is one of 10 children in the family where the parents are a rabbi and a school office worker.
In Lakewood, there are growing worries about Sofer.
“Is he abducted?” asked Rabbi Yisroel Serebrowski, who leads a congregation in Cherry Hill and says he is a friend of the missing student’s parents. “Is he being tortured?”
“This is a real person who has real parents who are suffering,” Serebrowski said.
Congressman Chris Smith Statement On Missing Yeshiva Bochur Aaron Sofer
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today expressed his hopes that his constituent, Aharon Sofer, of Lakewood, N.J., missing in Israel since Friday, Aug. 22, will be found and returned to his family, and called for the U.S. State Department to assist in every way possible.
“I learned about Aharon Sofer over the weekend and became very concerned for his well-being. I immediately sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry Monday urging that the State Department take every action to help in the effort to locate Aharon,” said Smith, a senior member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. “Today, in response, Secretary Kerry’s chief of staff, David Wade, assured me that the Department ‘was totally committed to assisting Aharon and his family,’” Smith said.
Smith and his staff have spoken to Aharon’s father and uncle both of whom are in Israel to assist and advance the search for Aharon in and around the forest in Jerusalem where he was last seen hiking on Friday.
“I hold to hope that Aharon will be located and returned to his family safely,” Smith said. “Until that day comes, he and his family are in our prayers, and I will work with the State Department to use all resources available to find him and bring him to safety.”
Sen. Menendez Statement on the Search for Missing NJ Student Aaron Sofer in Israel
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding Aaron Sofer, a yeshiva student from Lakewood, New Jersey who went missing on Friday while hiking with a friend outside Jerusalem:
“I am deeply concerned over the disappearance of New Jersey student Aaron Sofer in Israel and I stand in solidarity with his family. My thoughts are with them and the Lakewood community during this trying time. By all accounts, Aaron is a devout and dedicated student, who travelled to Israel to enhance his knowledge and deepen his understanding of sacred Jewish texts. For yeshiva students like Aaron, there is no greater pursuit than to live and study in Jerusalem, while worshipping at Judaism’s holiest sites.
“Ever since I was notified that Aaron went missing in Israel, my office has worked very closely with the State Department, U.S. Embassy and Consular officials in Israel, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. While investigators are pursuing every lead, we keep Aaron and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”
U.S. Senator Cory Booker Statement On Missing Lakewood Student Aaron Sofer
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) issued the following statement today concerning Aaron Sofer, a student from Lakewood, N.J., who went missing while on a hike with a friend outside Jerusalem.
“My thoughts are with Aaron, his family, and the entire Lakewood community as the search for this bright, devout, and loving young man continues. I’m deeply concerned about his disappearance and have been in consistent contact with the State Department and U.S. officials on the ground in Israel since this was reported. I’m praying for his safe and speedy return. I will continue to press for all possible resources to be used to help locate and return Aaron to his family.”