Steven Sotloff speaks before his murder by IS
Steven Sotloff speaks before his murder by ISScreenshot

Shirley Sotloff, the mother of US journalist Steven Sotloff who was recently brutally beheaded by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists in Syria, has spoken out about the love her son held for Israel.

"The first time Steven visited Israel he immediately fell in love with it," Shirley told those coming to comfort the bereaved family, according to Yedioth Aharonoth.

Sotloff was an Israeli citizen, having made aliyah (immigration) to the Jewish state in 2005, where he studied at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya until 2008.

According to his mother, who is herself the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Sotloff first traveled to Israel on the Taglit-Birthright Israel program and was enchanted by what he saw.

On Friday the family is to hold a memorial ceremony for him at the Beit Am synagogue in Miami, where Sotloff studied as a child and where his mother taught, and then sit shiva, the traditional seven-day period of intense mourning.

The grieving mother added "our Steven was not a man of war. He always looked for the human things; he always told us that his goal was to show the world what really is happening in the daily lives of citizens in Syria during the war."

Sotloff's family has asked for privacy during their mourning; on Wednesday a family friend Barak Barfi spoke to media representatives on their behalf, saying Sotloff was "pulled by the Arab world” to “tell the stories of those who didn't have anyone else to tell them.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the family on Thursday, saying "Steven was murdered because for the terrorists he was a symbol of the West – the same culture that extremist Islam wants to eradicate."

"I think that there is the beginning of a certain waking up and today many people around the world understand better than in the past that the threats to Israel are the same threats to them and that whoever does not nip these threats in the bud will, in the end, find them in their own house," added Netanyahu.