Aaron Sofer
Aaron SoferFacebook

Israeli police have launched a search for a young New Jersey Yeshiva student who disappeared during a hike in a forest outside Jerusalem last week.

Aaron Sofer, 23, of Lakewood, went hiking with a friend on a rocky slope in the Jerusalem forest on 22 August. They separated and soon after Sofer went missing.

New Jersey politicians appealed for more help from both the US and Israeli governments to find Sofer, who is an ultra-Orthodox student at a Yeshiva Jewish religious school.

Lakewood Council member Meir Lichtenstein said the area where the student went missing "is bordered by Jewish communities and by Arab communities, so it is very concerning". Sofer's parents travelled to Israel and demanded the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) be involved in the search.

"A physically, mentally and emotionally healthy young man does not go missing for 72 hours," said Sofer family spokesman, Dov Hirth, according to the Jerusalem Post. "The family is not satisfied with the way the search and rescue operation has been handled thus far."

In the same woods, the burned body of a Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was found. He was allegedly killed in retaliation for the kidnap and subsequent murders of three Israeli teens; 16-year-olds Naftali Frankel and Gilad Shaar and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach.

Israeli police spokesman Miki Rosenfeld said authorities were following all leads in their investigation, including "nationalistic motives".