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N.J. Yeshiva Student Missing in Israel

Aaron Sofer, 23, was last seen hiking in the Jerusalem Forest

Stephanie Butnick
August 27, 2014
Jerusalem Forest. (Wikimedia)
Jerusalem Forest. (Wikimedia)

Aaron Sofer, a 23-year-old yeshiva student from Lakewood N.J., has been missing since Friday, when he was last seen hiking in the Jerusalem Forest, the AP reports. According to police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, an extensive search is underway in the forest and nearby areas, and “nationalistic motives” haven’t been ruled out.

Sofer’s parents have issued a reward of 100,000 shekels (just under $30,000) for any information leading to his safe return. In a tearful video announcing the reward, Sofer’s parents beg viewers for information regarding his whereabouts.

While news of Sofer’s disappearance has made its way across New York and New Jersey news outlets, it has been largely eclipsed in Israeli media by coverage of the Gaza conflict and the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Still, the possibilities of what could have happened to Sofer remain grim. Given that this summer’s conflict was sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens earlier this summer—murders for which Hamas has since claimed responsibility—and the subsequent abduction and murder of a Palestinian teen by Jewish extremists, Sofer’s disappearance, if it indeed had a ‘nationalistic’ motive, could have a far-reaching impact. The stakes are even higher, and the timing more fraught, given that many believe the most recent ceasefire could be the one that finally ends the 50-day conflict.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.