Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke out on behalf of a haredi Orthodox yeshiva student from Lakewood, N.J., who was reported missing after hiking in the Jerusalem Forest.
Aaron Sofer, 23, was last seen at noon Friday when he and a friend began climbing down a steep incline on a hiking trail, according to the Yeshiva World website.
Smith expressed his hopes that Sofer, one of his constituents, will be found and returned to his family, and called for the U.S. State Department to assist in every way possible.
“I learned about Aharon [sic] Sofer over the weekend and became very concerned for his well-being. I immediately sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry Monday urging that the State Department take every action to help in the effort to locate Aharon,” said Smith, a senior member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. “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.”
Smith and his staff have spoken to Sofer’s father and uncle, both of whom are in Israel to assist in the search for Aaron in and around the forest in Jerusalem where he was last seen hiking .
“I hold to hope that Aharon will be located and returned to his family safely,” Smith said. “Until that day comes, he and his family are in our prayers, and I will work with the State Department to use all resources available to find him and bring him to safety.”
The rescue organizations ZAKA and Ichud Hatzalah, and a police canine unit searched for Sofer over Shabbat. Volunteers, mostly haredi, began searching on Saturday night and Sunday, according to Yeshiva World.
On Sunday, the search spread to include the Bayit Vegan, Hadassah and Ein Kerem neighborhoods overlooking the forest.
Sofer was described by police as being 1.75 meters tall, with a short red beard, glasses, black pants, a white shirt and a black kippa.