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Vigil Held For N.J. Yeshiva Student Missing In Israel

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LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey politicians on Monday called for more help from both the U.S. and Israeli governments for a student who went missing during a hike in Jerusalem last week.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, yeshiva student Aaron Sofer’s neighbors also gathered Monday night, praying for his safe return.

Sofer, 23, of Lakewood, has been missing since Friday when he went on a hike with a friend on a rocky, wooded slope in the Jerusalem Forest. Sofer and his friend apparently became separated, and Sofer never emerged.

“This area is bordered by Jewish communities and by Arab communities, so it is very concerning,” said Lakewood Council member Meir Lichtenstein.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and other local officials in New Jersey were planning a news conference for Tuesday in Lakewood to seek help in finding Sofer.

We have seen the worst the Holy Land has to offer this year. The burned body of a Palestinian boy was found in the same woods last month, in an apparent reprisal for the murder of three Israeli students – Naftali Frankel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 – in June.

All of it has come against the backdrop of searing tensions between Israel and Hamas militants that have erupted in open warfare.

“It’s scary to think what possibly could be the ramifications,” said neighbor Tzvi Meth. “Great fear is that he was accosted; he was taken away, kidnapped.”

Sofer’s parents live on Fifth Street in Lakewood. They rushed to Israel to wait for word and on Tuesday morning Israeli time, they demanded the army there get involved in the search.

“(Sofer is) a very fine boy, very normal, very healthy boy,” said Sofer’s rabbi, Binyomin Isseeman. “His mind is clear. No problems at all.”

There have been five prayer vigils in this close knit community since news of Sofer’s disappearance broke and the end of Sabbath Saturday evening. CBS 2’s Young is told the vigils will continue until he is found.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)