The body of Aron Sofer, a student from Lakewood, New Jersey, was found last week in the Jerusalem Forest.
He had been missing for a week, since his hiking companion returned without him, saying they had gotten separated in the woods.
It was a tragic ending to what should have been an innocent excursion.
We confess to having breathed a sigh of relief because in the end, this was not another death to be chalked up to terrorism. But we can’t help but wonder whether his death might not be due to another horrible killer: ignorance.
Every summer, hikers from ultra-Orthodox yeshivot get lost, and hurt, and sometimes die, when they face dangers their cloistered education did not prepare them for. Sometimes they drown because they jump into pools of unknown depth, not knowing how to swim, not even knowing to take their coats off.
Mr. Sofer and his companion reportedly did not carry water with them on their hike. Dehydration comes quick in the Jerusalem summer. Nor did they carry cell phones; cell phones are a forbidden temptation. They have been told by their teachers, whom they trust and revere, that in studying the Talmud they are learning all they need to know.
And in that, they are being lied to, either knowingly or not.
In Israel, this school year is opening amidst tension between the ministry of education, headed by Shai Piron, a modern Orthodox rabbi, and the charedi school system. The ministry has ordered that the charedi schools begin teaching basic math and English if they wish to continue to receive full government funding. The charedi leadership, as is their wont, are comparing Rabbi Piron and the Israeli government to Pharoah, Achashverus, and Amalek.
We urge the Israeli government to stand firm. The costs of ignorance, no matter how pious the motives, are too high. Rabbi Piron deserves praise for trying to rescue a generation of Jewish youth.