New Jersey student missing after hike outside Jerusalem - FOX 35 News Orlando

New Jersey student missing after hike outside Jerusalem

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By FOX NEWS - Israeli police said Tuesday they are searching for a young New Jersey religious student who disappeared during a hike in a forest outside Jerusalem last week.

Aaron Sofer, 23, of Lakewood, N.J., has been missing since Friday, when he went on a hike with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld said that police have launched an extensive search for Sofer, who is an ultra-Orthodox student at a yeshiva, a Jewish religious school. Sofer's parents have flown to Israel.

Rosenfeld said he was looking into reports that Sofer was with a companion when he disappeared.

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 militants.

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.

The crisis between Israelis and Palestinians has spiked in recent weeks with the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which erupted on July 8.

That war stemmed from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank by Hamas operatives in June, which triggered a massive Israeli arrest campaign in the West Bank, followed by an increase in rocket fire from Gaza.

In an apparent revenge attack, right-wing Israeli Jews kidnapped and burned to death a young Palestinian boy near Jerusalem in early July.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report



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