Article By: Uzi Baruch, Ari Yashar / Arutz Sheva
Pictures By: Uri Davis and Shmuel Ben-Yishay / Chadashot 24
As the search continued for Aharon Soffer, a 23-year-old yeshiva student from New Jersey who went missing in the Jerusalem Forest last Friday, police were reported to be widening the area being searched and adding additional forces to the efforts, but the latest reports indicate that the search may be over, after a body was found in Ein Kerem Thursday afternoon.
Police are attempting to determine if it is Soffer’s. The body is reportedly that of a man. Walla! News reported that the body fits Soffer’s description. Behadrei Haredim, a hareidi news site, reported that the body is indeed Soffer’s and that the search was called off after certain items connected to Soffer were found next to the body.
An uncorroborated report in the Lakewood News cited unnamed sources who also said the body found is indeed Soffer’s and that the death does not appear to be terror related. Additionally, it appears he may have fallen down a cliff while attempting to navigate his way out of the forest, reported the news outlet. Soffer is originally from Lakewood.
The IDF’s canine units and the Jerusalem District Police’s mounted units intensified the searched Wednesday night and on into Thursday through a wider ring of the Jerusalem Forest.
The decision to expand the area being searched was put into effect on Thursday afternoon, and has search teams fanning through the neighborhoods bordering the Jerusalem Forest, including Ein Kerem, Kiryat Yovel, Beit Zayit, Bayit Vagan and Har Nof.
United Hatzalah has also been heavily involved in the search, dispatching dozens of volunteers through the Jerusalem Forest. As the search expands in the coming hours, hundreds more volunteers will join in the search managed from the United Hatzalah mobile operations center in Ein Kerem.
“Our volunteers can be credited with vast knowledge of the local area and won’t rest until he is found,” promised United Hatzalah President Eli Beer.
Soffer’s parents have flown in from Lakewood to be closer to the investigation; they have offered a 100,000 shekel reward to anyone with information that can lead to their son, who was in Jerusalem studying at a yeshiva.
Anyone possessing pertinent information is asked to immediately contact the Jerusalem Police at 02-5391520, or the 100 emergency police hotline.
Beer added that 1221 may also be called to reach United Hatzalah’s search and rescue team, noting “I and all the volunteers and supporters of United Hatzalah join hands with the Soffer Family in the hopes and prayers for a positive outcome from this challenging incident.”