- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Israeli police are searching for a New Jersey religious student who disappeared Friday during a hike outside Jerusalem.

Aaron Sofer, a 23-year-old ultra-Orthodox student at a yeshiva, went missing as he was hiking with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, Fox News reported.

Mr. Sofer’s parents, who live in Lakewood, New Jersey, have flown to Israel as police continue an extensive search for the American.

Shlomo Sofer, Aaron’s cousin, called on the Israeli military and United States to get involved.

“What happened here is unknown, but it’s pretty clear that he’s not in the forest,” he told Fox News. “Something is not quite right. We have every reason to assume that something hostile happened. Bottom line: Where is he? … We feel they should be taking further measures in terms of investigating a possible abduction.”

“This is an American citizen and the U.S. government has full responsibility to bring him home safely,” Mr. Sofer continued. “If Americans don’t wake up now, I don’t know when they’re going to wake up.”

New Jersey lawmakers on Monday called for more help from the U.S. and Israeli governments in the search for the missing man, Fox News reported.

“This area is bordered by Jewish communities and by Arab communities, so it is very concerning,” said Lakewood Council member Meir Lichtenstein.

Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey Republican, and other local officials were planning a news conference for Tuesday in Lakewood to seek help in finding the student, CBS’s New York affiliate reported.

There have been several prayer vigils in Lakewood since news of Mr. Sofer’s disappearance.

War broke out between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip on July 8, stemming from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens by Hamas operatives in June.

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