“I’m having a hard time now, but I will try to speak,” Chulda Sofer, Aharon’s mother, began in a trembling voice, in a heartbreaking video plea to the public for help in finding her son.
Aharon Sofer, 23, went missing on Friday, Aug. 22, while hiking with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest. A student who is learning in Jerusalem at Reb Tzvi Kaplan’s Yeshiva, he is one of 10 children, the son of a rabbi and a mother who works in a school office. He disappeared after taking a diverging path while heading down a steep incline in the forest while hiking with his friend last Friday. When he didn’t re-appear by 6 pm in time to prepare for Sabbath, Sofer’s friend knew something was wrong.
Few are willing to voice the fear that Sofer was kidnapped by Arab terrorists. Fewer dare to even think the unthinkable: as with three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists on June 12, the awful silence that has followed this yeshiva student’s disappearance may not mean good news. There have been terrorist murders in the Jerusalem Forest before. An Arab teen was kidnapped and killed there in a revenge attack for the Hamas murders of the three Israeli teens. A Christian woman, Kristine Luken, was attacked with her friend by a Palestinian Arab terrorist in 2010 in the same forest. Her friend managed to escape, but Luken was murdered.
Seen in the video clutching a poster bearing a photo of her son with the word MISSING printed in heavy black letters in Hebrew and English, Chulda Sofer is clearly beside herself. She tearfully beseeches, “Please, please, please, I beg of you, beg you, please, if anyone sees, anything about Aharon, please call the police immediately.”
The video at that point is apparently spliced, probably for brevity; Rabbi Moshe Sofer, the young man’s father, is then seen reading his own statement in a calm, firm voice.
“Our son Aharon was taking a walk in the Ya’ar Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Forest) on Friday, August 22, and was last seen at 12 pm in the area of Yad Vashem.
“The police are working tirelessly on all fronts and all options are being strongly investigated. We would like to thank the American Consulate, the Office of the Consul-General and the FBI and the Israeli Police and ZAKA for all their efforts in trying to find our dear son Aharon.
“There is a reward of NIS 100,000 for any finder of Aharon,” he concludes, faltering slightly on the final sentence.
One of Aharon’s cousins from the United States tried to organize a ‘group think’ effort to brainstorm ways to help via Facebook.
“Below is a list of phone numbers you can call in order to get updates on my cousin’s situation, provide ideas and different ways of helping, and also to get a list of tehillim (psalms) to say as we are all trying to finish the whole sefer tehillim (Book of Psalms) over and over and over again,” he wrote. “Please spread the word, pass this on and make those calls. thank you!!!!”
A yeshiva student who joined the thousands of searchers in the Jerusalem Forest, A*, said he has spent the past three days combing the hills for his friend. “I have been up since 5 am,” he said, “and we haven’t found anything. Not a single thing. Those earlier rumors of things that were found were false reports, I think. But in a way, that’s good, right? Because it means he might still be alive.” The student added that his friend has been in Jerusalem since early last autumn, and is no novice to the area.
Hana Levi Julian