Three days after being reported missing in the Jerusalem Forest while hiking with a friend, the family of 23-year-old American yeshiva student Aaron Sofer said they are dissatisfied with the progress of the search, and demanded military intervention.
Despite hundreds of police officers, volunteers and emergency response and rescue organizations ZAKA and United Hatzalah searching for Sofer since Saturday, no clues as to his whereabouts had surfaced as of Monday evening.
“A physically, mentally and emotionally healthy young man does not go missing for 72 hours,” said Sofer family spokesman, Dov Hirth. “The family is not satisfied with the way the search and rescue operation has been handled thus far.”
Moreover, Hirth cited the Muhammad Abu Khdeir murder in the same forest last month by Jewish assailants, compounded by heightened tensions with Palestinians, as cause for alarm.
“It’s well known that a murder took place in that forest, and especially with the ongoing tensions with Palestinians, we feel there should be a military presence and involvement in the search for Aaron,” he said.
Sofer, who is haredi and from Lakewood, New Jersey, was last seen in the Beit Zayit area of the woods Friday morning, before he and a friend became separated while navigating a steep incline.
Concerned after not reuniting with him several hours later, the unidentified friend contacted police to file a missing person’s report, which led to the intensive manhunt, as well as Sofer’s parents flying to Israel to aid in the widening search.
While the manhunt initially generated numerous headlines, Hirth said the family is now concerned that the story has lost traction.
“The fact of the matter is we have a young man missing for no apparent reason, and it was on page 1 of all the newspapers and then the coverage just stopped,” he said. “This needs to continue to be a major story.”
Police describe Sofer as approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall, slender, with a closecropped red beard, wearing glasses, a white shirt, yarmulke and black trousers at the time of his disappearance.
Anyone with information that may assist in locating Sofer has been asked to call 02-5391520, or the Israel Police hotline at 100.