Steven Sotloff, the US journalist beheaded by ISIS, was Jewish, had moved to Israel to study, became an Israeli citizen, and, while in captivity, risked his life to fast on Yom Kippur and pray towards Jerusalem.
The Israeli government Wednesday lifted a media gag order on Sotloff’s Israeli connections.
Israel National News reports that Sotloff, a native of Miami, moved to Israel in 2005 to pursue a degree at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. He opted to become an Israeli citizen. While in captivity, he took great risks to keep his hidden Jewish faith, according to a former fellow-captive.
Sotloff reportedly made sure to fast in secret during Yom Kippur and even prayed in the direction of Jerusalem, despite the risk he faced if his Islamist captors found out he was Jewish.
One of his fellow captives, who was subsequently released, revealed that Sotloff faked being sick on Yom Kippur so as not to rouse his captors’ suspicions.
“He told them he was ill and didn’t want to eat, even though they brought us eggs that day,” the witness said, “It looked like he was praying in a hidden way towards Jerusalem. He noted what way the Muslims were praying in and changed his direction slightly.”
After graduating from IDC, Sotloff began his freelance journalism career, filing stories for both the Jerusalem Post and Jerusalem Report before moving on to outlets including Foreign Policy and TIME.
As the Arab world was going through great upheavals, Sotloff began pursuing its many story lines. As a freelancer, he traveled to Yemen, Libya and Egypt to chronicle the uprisings and violence spreading across the Middle East. Eventually, his work took him to Syria, where he went missing on August 4, 2013.
In the video released last night by ISIS, a masked man dressed in black, apparently the same British terrorist who appeared in the beheading video of Sotloff’s fellow captive James Foley, addresses the camera:
“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State,” the terrorist says.
After forcing Sotloff to recite a script, the screen goes black, only for the recording to begin again showing what appears to be the decapitated body and head of the American-Israeli journalist.