Israeli authorities search for missing Lakewood student
A search is underway in Israel for a Lakewood resident who has been missing since Friday, authorities said Monday.
Aaron Sofer, 23, was hiking with a friend in the Jerusalem forest on Aug. 22, when he disappeared. His friend reported losing sight of Sofer at about noon, local time. According to an article in The Yeshiva World News, the two men lost sight of one another going down an incline. His friend contacted police around 6 p.m., the article states.
According to a press release emailed to Townsquare Media Monday afternoon, "a massive search was launched in conjunction with the well-known search and rescue organization Ichud Hatzalah and Zaka. They were joined by thousands of volunteers. There has been no trace of him so far, leading to fears that he may have been kidnapped."
An article in The Jerusalem Post said the search included "helicopters, canines and hundreds of police officers and volunteers are scouring the area." The publication also said Sofer's family traveled to Israel Sunday to help with the search.
According to the publication, Israeli authorities have not ruled out the possibility that Sofer may have been abducted.
"Asked if police suspect the Torah Academy student’s disappearance may be terrorist related, national spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 'all directions are being looked into,'” The Jerusalen Post reported.
Three Israeli teens were reported missing from the West Bank on June 12. Their bodies were discovered two weeks later. Last week, a senior Hamas leader said the group carried out the kidnapping and killing of the teens. The Hamas leader's statement was the first time anyone from the Islamic militant group has admitted to being behind the attack, which helped spark the current war in the Gaza Strip.
According to the press release sent to Townsquare Media, "Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) have been actively involved in ensuring that both the Israeli and U.S. governments are using all resources available to facilitate the safe homecoming of Aaron Sofer."
Smith's office confirmed Monday that the legislator, along with Mayor Menashe P. Miller and other local officials, will be attending a press conference on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Lakewood to discuss the student's disappearance.
In a statement Monday evening Smith, who has spoken to Sofer's father and uncle, called on 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.’”