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Missing yeshiva student Aharon Sofer of Lakewood, NJ has been in Israel since last fall. He is no novice to the area, and would not have easily gotten lost.

A New Jersey Congressman urged the State Department to add its weight to the search. Police interviewed the friend with whom Sofer was hiking, and have launched a multi-level search “in all directions.”

American lawmakers have also become involved. U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, a senior member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, contacted Secretary of State John Kerry to ask for help in the search, as Sofer is one of his constituents.

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“Whether Aharon has been lost, injured or kidnapped, it is in the interest of the United States Government to find out what happened to this American citizen,” Smith wrote in his letter to Kerry. “Therefore, I urge you to identify key staff within the Department and all relevant U.S. Government officials at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv who can help Aharon’s family and assist Israeli authorities in the search.”

Kerry’s chief of staff, David Wade, “assured [the Congressman] that the Department ‘was totally committed to assisting Aharon and his family.’‘ Smith said.

The lawmaker and his staff have stayed in touch with Sofer’s father and uncle, who both flew to Israel on Saturday night to assist with the search and investigation.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) both issued statements of support as well.

Mendendez, who is Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his deep concern over Sofer’s disappearance. “I stand in solidarity with his family,” he said. “My thoughts are with them and the Lakewood community during this trying time. By all accounts, Aaron is a devout and dedicated student who traveled 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 worshiping at Judaism’s holiest sites,” he added.

Booker, too, has been in contact with the State Department and U.S. officials in Israel as well. “I’m praying for his safe and speedy return,” he said. “I will continue to press for all possible resources to be used to help locate and return Aaron to his family.”

Already by Friday night, Israeli security forces were deployed in a massive manhunt with helicopters scanning the area from the skies, and search and rescue teams combing the area below, together with K-9 dog units. By 2 am Saturday, Israel Police had contacted ZAKA and the Israel Hatzolah organizations, asking them to join the effort.

By Saturday night thousands of yeshiva students had learned of the incident through announcements in their synagogues over the Sabbath, and joined the search as well.

Over the next two days, those efforts were supplemented by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“I hold on to hope that Aharon will be located and returned to his family safely,” Smith said in a statement posted on his official website. “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 public is asked to pray for the safe return of Aharon ben Chulda.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

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