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Israeli Authorities Searching For Missing Student From New Jersey

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By Cleve Bryan

LAKEWOOD, N.J., (CBS) — On Tuesday, elected and religious leaders stood on the steps of the Lakewood Municipal Building asking for all government resources in Israel and the U.S. be used to locate 23-year-old Aharon Sofer who disappeared Friday near Jerusalem.

Sofer, who is doing religious studies abroad, went for a hike on Friday in the Jerusalem forest with a friend and the two became separated while going down an incline.

According to New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the Israeli police have been conducting a massive search for Sofer since 6 p.m. on Friday. There have been no signs of Sofer, and over the weekend, his parents flew to Israel to help in the search.

“Please bring back my brother, everyone should do everything they could to just bring him back and bring him back in good health,” says younger brother Yaakov Sofer.

“They should have mercy on us and everyone should pray for him to make sure that he comes back to us,” says older brother Meir Sofer who asked government officials treat Aharon like their own son.

There is no confirmation Sofer has been hurt or kidnapped, but given the recent abductions of young people, which have escalated the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is deep concern for Sofer’s safety.

Smith wrote a letter Monday to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department take every action to help locate Sofer.

“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,'” said Smith in a statement.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) also released a statement on Sofer that reads:

“I am deeply concerned over the disappearance of New Jersey student Aaron Sofer in Israel and I stand in solidarity with his family. My thoughts are with them and the Lakewood community during this trying time. By all accounts, Aaron is a devout and dedicated student, who travelled to Israel to enhance his knowledge and deepen his understanding of sacred Jewish texts. For yeshiva students like Aaron, there is no greater pursuit than to live and study in Jerusalem, while worshipping at Judaism’s holiest sites.

“Ever since I was notified that Aaron went missing in Israel, my office has worked very closely with the State Department, U.S. Embassy and Consular officials in Israel, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. While investigators are pursuing every lead, we keep Aaron and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

And U.S. Senator Cory Booker also released a statement saying, “I’m praying for his safe and speedy return. I will continue to press for all possible resources to be used to help locate and return Aaron to his family.”

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