Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens

Where is everyone?

It’s 2014…social media is generating information at warp speed. We are capable of getting the word out so fast that news is often widely reported before it even hits, well, the news. In times of great joy we share a virtual smile; in times of great crisis we collectively share our pain. But we always, ALWAYS share. Except for the times that we don’t. Like now. Because all I want to know is, Why isn’t Aaron Sofer a household name?

At this time it is more than three days – three unendurably painful, paralyzingly scary days – for a mother and father who do not know where their son Aaron is. Three days of numbing uncertainty with no clues, hardly anything to go on to find a young man who is missing without a trace, who is painfully absent as his family and friends mark his 23rd birthday.

Where is Aaron Sofer? Nobody knows. But everyone – EVERYONE – should be doing every damned thing they could do to find out.

When Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby’s son went missing in January of this year we learned of the power of social media. People suggested it was because Jacoby is well-known. But others were certain it was because of the connected feeling of the global Jewish community. I liked that explanation though I was convinced it was a combination of both. Now I wonder. Where is the global Jewish community NOW? Why are they failing Aaron Sofer?

aaron sofer

Aaron Sofer, an American student in Israel to study in a yeshiva was engaged in the positively ordinary activity of hiking in the Jerusalem Forest with a friend on Friday. At a particular steep descent the two got separated and that’s the last known place he was seen. His friend called authorities when Aaron failed to return before Shabbat and there have been active search parties, including police and hundreds of yeshiva students and others. They know where he was last seen. There have been helicopters and canine units. Why has Aaron Sofer disappeared without a trace?

Which brings me back to the rest of us. Where have we been? We are a powerful force; why have we been so quiet? Where are the hashtags? The prayer groups? The signs? The blog posts? The unity? Why is everyone so QUIET?

When I first heard that an American student was missing, I looked everywhere, wanting to share it widely, but always prudently checking my stories before posting. I could not find it anywhere except in the haredi press. I thought that was strange and tried finding out if there was something I wasn’t seeing that would be reason for this story not to make it to the mainstream press. There was nothing. It simply wasn’t there. Finally, 48 hours after his disappearance, it started to slowly show up online; though mostly with just a grainy, black and white image that was probably years old. Really? Was that the best they could do?

Finally, now, the story has broken the US mainstream media. And gained traction in Israeli media as well. Finally, they are exploring the notion that perhaps his disappearance has ‘nationalistic motives’ (code, in this instance, for something perpetrated by Arabs…) Now they are finally exploring this possibility? Now that the trail is getting colder and colder? Why was EVERY possibility not explored from day one?

But where were we? Why didn’t WE insist that every possibility be explored? Why haven’t we rallied in support of Aaron and his family? Could it possibly be that the general Jewish/Israeli public was not interested because Aaron Sofer is haredi??  

No, I refuse – REFUSE – to accept that even as a possibility. Maybe people just didn’t think it was so serious, didn’t realize the life-threatening reality that Aaron’s parents, nine siblings, friends, learning partners in yeshiva, teachers and neighbors are facing as the hours and days pass without a trace. 

Well, my friends, you and I are part of that inner-circle as well. So deal with it.

PRAY. For Aaron ben Chulda.

POST. Everywhere. This story cannot go away until Aaron is found.

SEARCH. Are you local? Join the search party. Call 02-539-1520.

CARE. It’s what we do. I know you meant to. You still can. You must.

If nothing else, we have learned in recent times that when we unite we are capable of incredible things. And so together we will make a Aaron Sofer a household name. And together, we will not rest until Aaron Sofer has been found.

Aaron Sofer 6Let’s #BringAaronHome! 

About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.