New Jersey student Aharon Sofer had been hiking in the mountains of Jerusalem, but is now unaccounted for, sparking a search by Israeli police and concern for the safety of Americans in the war-torn nation.

23-year old Sofer, of Lakewood, N.J., reportedly went missing during a hike in a forest outside Jerusalem last week, according to

A representative for Lakewood Police says an extensive search for Sofer, an ultra-Orthodox student at a Jewish religious school, has been mounted. Sofer's parents have flown to Israel. Yaakov Sofer, Aharon's brother spoke at a press conference this morning, pleading "I just want to give a small message: 'please bring back my brother. Everyone should do everything they could to bring him back and bring him back in good health."

Authorities fear Sofer may have fallen victim to Palestinian militants and the crisis between Israelis and Palestinians that has escalated along the Gaza Strip in recent week.