Steven had Israel in his blood, says close family friend
After it was cleared for publication that journalist beheaded by Islamic State was Jewish, lived in Israel, former editor recalls: 'Some of the stories he did had connections with Israel, including stories done ahead of the curve on the jihadi movement taking over in Sinai.'
"He was not an outcast. He grew up in an Israeli home with a Jewish upbringing. Israel was in his blood," said a businessman close to the family of a murdered Israeli-American journalist who is in touch with Syrian opposition officials.
"Steven entered Syria to report that Assad was massacring his own people. What was he trying to accomplish? To show the world that genocide is being committed against the Syrian people – that children are being slaughtered."
Steven Sotloff – the Israel-American journalist executed by Islamic State militants Tuesday in reprisal for US air strikes in Iraq – was a highly esteemed journalist whose colleagues claim warned of the threats radical Islamic terror posed.
Friends and neighbors made similar claims, saying he was incredibly dedicated to his work and an extremely friendly person.
Sotloff, made Aliyah in 2005 and studied at the IDC's Foreign Relations program, a friend from school confirmed for Ynet. Little information regarding his time in Israel is known, and after he was captured in Syria it seems any connection to Israel was deleted from his online presence in a bid to prevent the information reaching his captors.
However, Felice Friedson, the president of The Media Line, who knew Sotloff when he wrote for the online publication recalls him very well.
"I met him in 2009, and he began working for and contributing to the Media Line in 2012," Friedson said.
"He is one of the most courageous, talented and insightful journalist that I have met. He covered many countries in the Mideast since 2009, including stories on the Arab Spring, and then again in 2012 he was covering stories for us from Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Syria. Where he was subsequently abducted by al-Qaeda and then transferred," he said
The precise circumstances of Sotloff's abduction in the first week of August 2013 remain unclear, as does the identity of his original kidnappers, but one theory is that Sotloff was grabbed by a criminal gang, and later transferred or "sold" to Islamic State.
"He held dual citizenship (American-Israel) and studies in Israel for a while," Friedson claimed, adding that "Some of the stories he did had connections with Israel, including stories done ahead of the curve on the jihadi movement taking over in Sinai.
"Obviously the most important thing is that we harshly condemn the barbaric killing of our colleague and friend and it is important that the world wake up – and this was Steve's wish – that they wake and read what he was writing."
According to Freidson, "He read the streets perfectly (and) did a lot of writing on terror, specially about jihadists taking over in Syria and Libya. He was sounding the alarm and was frustrated that no one was listening; he said people in these countries were asking for funds to fight radical Islamic movements.
"Our condolences go out to his family with who we've been in contact throughout the year, but also to the world because this is an attack on civil society," Friedson aptly concluded.
One of them
Mike Sapir, a friend of Steve's recalled "I assumed he finished his IDC studies and went back to the States. (But) in July 2013, Steven reached out to me on Facebook and sent message asking me if I am going to the Maccabia games (where they eventually met in 2013) and then he told me what he had been doing all these past couple of years, it was really strange all of a sudden he tells me this fantastic story. "
Reflecting on his journalistic career, Mike recalls, "Basically Steven kind of created a journalistic career out of thin air, he said this is what he want to do and he is going to do it sell his story to who ever take it.
"He wasn't a formal journalist. It's not like he took his resume and went back to US and tried to be employed by New York Times. He told me he wanted to see what was happening in the Middle East so he picked up and went to Egypt to cover the Arab Spring, then he went to Bengazi and followed the revolution and just covered it.
"Steven went there and was part of the people, he wasn't like the reporters in Gaza sitting in their hotel room, Steven was part of the scenery, part of the people, his friends were Arabs."
Giving further insight into Satloff's style, Mike explained: "Steven lived what he was reporting. His friends were Muslims, and he never said he was afraid, he actually said that he was able to get people to open up, he was able to get in to see their side."
Threat to humanity
The IDC's founder and chairman, Prof. Uriel Reichman, issued a statement in Soltoff's memorial, confirmed that he had studied government at the college's international school between 2005 and 2008.
"In their actions, the jihadi group has taken itself out of the circle of humanity. This type of terror is stands in contradiction to the value of freedom. Steve's murder reminds us again what challenges humanity faces."
A neighbor who lived next to Sotloff in Herzliya said "he lived across from us together with two friends. He was a nice, quiet and shy guy who spoke broken Hebrew. When he left the apartment they gave us a really nice goodbye letter. I still can't believe a student in the IDF was killed by ISIS."
Roi Kais, Ra'anan Ben-Zur, Itay Blumenthal, Michal Margalit and Reuters contributed to this report.