Above: Aarob Sofer, a"h
What Killed Haredi Yeshiva Student Aaron Sofer? Likely That He Did Not Own A Cellphone
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
What killed haredi yeshiva student Aaron Sofer?
The 23-year-old was walking through the Jerusalem Forest last Friday with a friend when the two became separated at about noon.
When Sofer did not return to his yeshiva as Shabbat approached, that friend called police to report Sofer missing.
After almost six full days of continuous searching, Sofer’s boby was found not far from where the young men got separated.
Police have said there are no overt signs of foul play.
What killed Aaron Sofer might have been two things – inadequate preparation to hike though the forest, which is smaller than New York City’s Central Park but more rugged, and the lack of a cellphone.
Haredi rabbis have banned almost all cellphone use, except for censored phones in which text messaging and Internet access are either completely disabled or heavily censored.
These rabbis have turned not owning an “evil” “heretical” cellphone into a totem of true haredi belief, and many yeshivas expel students who own them, even when those cellphones are properly haredi-ensored.
We don’t know if heat stroke and dehydration, or a genetic heart defect or some other illness, or even suicide (although there is no indication of it that we know) killed Sofer, but we do know that it is likely (although not yet certain) that if he had a cellphone, he would be alive today.
And there is one main reason thousands of haredi yeshiva students do not have cellphones – haredi rabbis, the same haredi rabbis who banned all secular education and who banned almost all haredim from going to college and who banned haredim from serving in the IDF. (These rabbis have banned much more than this short list, from denim skirts and tops to reading competing haredi factions’ newspapers and dozens of other things in between.)
This fear of modernity not only trapped haredim like Aaron Sofer inside what many experts are increasingly viewing as a cult, it also keeps them ignorant of many things. And for an American haredi yeshiva student like Aaron Sofer, that ignorance included proper dress for a wilderness hike on a hot summer day in Israel, knowing that he had to bring adequate water with him, knowing that it was a time of war and that he needed to be extra careful.
And then we have the lack of the cellphone.
The cellphone was necessary as a safety precaution both for calling police during possible abduuction attempts and calling for help if he became lost or injured.
Speaking on Zev Brenner’s radio show last night, the founder and president of the haredi EMT organization United Hatzalah, Eli Beer, urged Israeli yeshivas to make sure that all yeshiva students carry cell phones whenever they leave their yeshiva.
“Today, carrying a phone could be a lifesaving situation. A phone today is not just a tool of business or pleasure.…You don’t go to a places like a desert or forest or wherever it is without a phone. I’m not here to advertise phones, but I’m saying that it could save lives,” Beer reportedly said.
“I’m not saying that yeshiva students should use their phones every day. But a phone isn’t a luxury. It is a lifesaver,” Beer told the haredi VIN news.
“The majority of Israel has cellphone service, but even in a place where there is no service, police could still search where the phone last had reception further narrowing the search area,” Beer added.
Beer also spoke about proper attire for hiking in the forest or wilderness.
“Proper shoes are a must. Dress shoes that you wear in yeshiva have slippery soles and you can’t wear shoes like that to go hiking. You wouldn’t go ice skating in dress shoes and you shouldn’t wear them to go hiking either.…You need clothing that is lighter than the regular clothing you would wear in the yeshiva study hall. You don’t realize how heat eats you up from the inside when you are wearing black, which collects the heat. People don’t realize just how hot it gets here and you get dehydrated very, very fast. You need to fight that by wearing white clothing and light clothing. You need a hat, even a baseball cap, but it has to be light colored,” Beer said.
Beer also said that anyone going hiking should have at least four liters of water with them.
All of this information may be obvious to most people, but haredim have so little secular education and so little experience with the outdoors that many haredim – including many haredi rabbis – are completely unaware of much of it.
[Hat Tip: Seymour.]