Lakewood, New Jersey officials confirmed on Thursday that the body of missing yeshiva student Aaron Sofer was found in the Jerusalem Hills, apparently the victim of an accidental fall while hiking.
“During the six days there was hope all along until his body was actually found,” said township committeeman Meir Lichtenstein, a friend of the family, according to NJ.com. “Obviously, there was grave concern because it was so long but I think that there was a lot of hope.”
“The silver lining in the cloud is that Aharon’s disappearance and eventually death really united the community, brought a lot of good out in people. And there’s a lot of solace in that,” Lichtenstein added.
Sofer, 23 and who was a student at the Lakewood yeshiva,, will be buried in Israel, the New Jersey website reported.
His body was found around 4 p.m. (9 a.m. EDT) by a member of the Ichud Hatzolah emergency organization, Yisroel Erlich.
The searcher said he came upon “a man’s body among the shrubbery that seemed to match the missing student’s description” after a week of frantic searching by thousands of volunteers.
Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld, who has not confirmed the identity as of now, said, “It’s not clear how the person died,” Rosenfeld said, in part due to the condition of the body. Experts from the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute were summoned to the scene to examine the body on site in a closed-off area.
Sofer went missing last Friday while hiking in the forest with a friend, after the two took diverging paths heading down a steep incline. Police were notified when the student did not reappear late in the day for preparations just prior to the Sabbath. Sofer learns in a hareidi yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Sofer’s parents and uncle immediately boarded a flight for Israel on Saturday night, and by mid-week had offered a sizeable reward for his return in a video plea for the public’s help, posted on the internet.
In Sofer’s Orthodox Jewish community of Lakewood, prayer vigils were held daily. Local Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and both US Senators had urged the State Department to shake loose all resources available to help in the search. Both American and Israeli officials said that “no stone was being left unturned.”