Missing yeshiva student Aaron Sofer..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an emotional plea for any information about the whereabouts of their son, Aaron Sofer – missing since Friday while hiking in the Jerusalem Forest – his parents, who flew to Israel from New Jersey to aid in the search, beseeched the public on Tuesday for assistance.
Despite the FBI, US Consulate and hundreds of police officers, volunteers and the emergency response and rescue organizations ZAKA and United Hatzalah actively searching for Sofer, he has yet to be found.
“I want to thank everyone for all the help, but I ask you, please, please, please – I beg of you, beg you – please, if anyone sees any whereabouts of Aaron, please call the police immediately!” said Sofer’s mother, Chulda, in tears near the scene of his disappearance.
As the search entered its fourth day, the Sofers said the FBI and US Consulate recently joined the intensive manhunt for the 23-year-old American haredi yeshiva student, who has been studying in Jerusalem for approximately one year.
“The police are working tirelessly on all fronts, and all options are being strongly investigated,” said Aaron’s father, Moshe. “We would like to thank the American Consulate, the office of the consul- general, the FBI and the Israeli Police and ZAKA for all their efforts in trying to find our dear son Aaron.”
In a desperate measure to expedite the search, Moshe added that the family is offering a NIS 100,000 reward to anyone who can locate his son.
Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also issued a statement of concern for Sofer Tuesday afternoon.
“I am deeply concerned over the disappearance of New Jersey student Aaron Sofer in Israel and I stand in solidarity with his family,” said Menendez. “My thoughts are with them and the Lakewood community during this trying time."
Describing Sofer as a “devout and dedicated student who traveled to Israel to enhance his knowledge and deepen his understanding of sacred Jewish texts,” the senator added that he is working closely with American and Israeli officials to assist in the search.
“Ever since I was notified that Aaron went missing in Israel, my office has worked very closely with the State Department, US Embassy and consular officials in Israel, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC,” he said. “While investigators are pursuing every lead, we keep Aaron and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Sofer 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 friend contacted police to file a missing person’s report.
While the search for their son initially generated numerous international headlines, Moshe and Chulda said the family is deeply concerned that the story has since lost traction.
“It is critical that the media does not lose sight of this,” said Moshe. “As any parent could understand, we are desperate to find our son and ask that he is not forgotten during this critical time.”
Police describe Sofer as approximately 5 feet, 9 inches tall, or 175 centimeters, slender, with a close-cropped 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) 539-1520, or the Israel Police hotline at 100.