Daily Israel Report

Watch: Hareidi Soldier's Surprise Reunion with Catholic Mother

Diego Tapia converted to Judaism; his mother and sister flew from Columbia as surprise for Nahal Hareidi completion ceremony.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 5/16/2014, 1:45 PM

Diego Tapia with mother and sister
Diego Tapia with mother and sister
Hillel Meir

A heart-warming reunion took place on Wednesday, as a Nahal Hareidi soldier saw his Catholic mother for the first time in over six years after she was flown in from Colombia to be with him at a completion ceremony.

Diego Tapia was born to a Catholic family in Colombia, and began his spiritual journey in earnest while in university. After connecting to the uniqueness of Judaism, Tapia traveled to Israel to convert to Judaism and make his life in the Holy Land as a Jew.

At the age of 28 Tapia chose to enlist in the IDF's Nahal Hareidi, which caters to the hareidi Jewish community. He was given a surprise at the ceremony concluding his intensive training, after the Nahal Hareidi Foundation flew in his mother and sister from Colombia so that he would have family present at his graduation like the other soldiers.

"It's a feeling of joy, It is a great excitement and a big surprise," Tapia's mother Mercedes said, after taking the 20-hour flight from Bogota to Tel Aviv in less than a day's notice to surprise Diego at the ceremony.

Rabbi David Fuchs of the Nahal Hareidi Foundation commented on the surprise reunion, saying "the hugs between the mother and her son brought everyone to tears during this event. It was one of the most breathtaking events of my life."

Tapia's journey to Judaism began after he became fascinated by two famous Jewish philosophical texts written in the Middle Ages: Rabbi Yehuda Halevi's "Kuzari," and Rambam's "Guide for the Perplexed."

"Diego didn't find the idea of connecting this material world to spirituality in any other religion," relates on of Tapia's friends. "Most religions speak of disconnecting from the body and this world for you to link yourself to G-d. They are too spiritual, and usually address you to meditation and self-contemplation. But the basic creed in Judaism is to connect the temporal and eternal trough actual acts, and that what appealed to Diego."

Tapia flew to Jerusalem to study in a yeshiva, and went through a full process of conversion that lasted more than three years, before deciding to enlist in the army of the Jewish state.

Diego Tapia's surprise at the completion ceremony Hillel Meir