JERUSALEM – Israeli forensic investigators on Friday identified a recently found body as that of a U.S. religious student who disappeared while hiking in Jerusalem last week, Israeli police said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the body was confirmed early on Friday morning to be that of seminary student Aharon Sofer.
"There is no suspicion of foul play," said Samri, meaning Sofer's death was not a militant attack or a criminal attack. She had no further details on how he died.
The body was found on Thursday night in the same area where Sofer disappeared last week. The 23-year-oldSofer, of Lakewood, New Jersey, had been hiking with a friend in a hilly, forested area on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
He was an ultra-Orthodox student at a yeshiva, a Jewish religious school, named for its founder Rabbi Tzvi Kaplan.
Sofer's parents had flown to Israel to assist with the search in the days after their son disappeared.
"They're overwhelmed. At the same time, there is some relief that Aharon has been found," said Meir Lichtenstein, a committeeman in Lakewod Township, who was with Sofer's family in New Jersey on Thursday.
Lichtenstein said that the community had held out hope that Sofer would be found, but his death ultimately brought the community together.
"The silver lining in the cloud is that Aharon's disappearance and eventually death really united the community, brought a lot of good out in people. And there's a lot of solace in that," Lichtenstein said.
Lawmakers across the state offered condolences Thursday, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
"We add our thoughts and prayers to those of so many in New Jersey and around the world for this family and the community of Lakewood," Christie said. "Together, we can help them deal with this awful tragedy."