Fears for the life of U.S. yeshiva student Aaron Sofer, have grown along with the number of theories of what happened to the 23-year-old man, last seen hiking with a friend before they became separated near Jerusalem.
Police have not ruled out any motive, but there are at least two signs that he was not kidnapped by Arab terrorists.
ZAKA rescue official Chaim Weingarten told the Kikar Shabbat website, “If he was abducted we would expect to find eyeglasses or an article of clothing but this is not the case.” Earlier reports that searchers found some personal items of Sofer have not been confirmed.
In addition, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for kidnapping or, God forbid, murdering Sofer, although that does not eliminate the possibility.
His hiking partner, whose identity has not been revealed, reported on Friday that Sofer was missing after they were walking in a heavily wooded area of the Jerusalem Hills, not far from Jerusalem’s western neighborhoods of Givat Shaul and Ein Kerem.
The two yeshiva students were hiking during the traditional three-week break from Torah studies, between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Chodesh Elul, which began Tuesday and Wednesday. The most likely possibilities behind Sofer’s disappearance are that he fell into a ravine, and another theory is that he might have been the victim of a hit-and-run driver.
The annual three-week vacation is often marked with tragic news of those yeshiva students who are not experienced swimmers of hikers. Many of them have become drowning victims, and others frequently get lost, resulting in widespread searches that often require the police or the IDF to call in helicopters to find and rescue them.
The search for Sofer is complicated by the dozens of paths and trails in the forest and by the thick vegetation. Sofer’s family clings to hope that the yeshiva student will be found alive.
“Please bring him back,” said Sofer’s brother-in-law, Yaakov Wicentowsky.