Exodus 2014 Exodus 2014 Private Diego Tapaya was born as a Christian in Colombia. A decade ago, when he started his studies at the university, Diego began to take interest in Judaism. Eventually he converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel and enlisted as a combat soldier in the “Negev” unit in Nevatim Airbase

Naomi Zoreff | Translation: Eden Sharon

The Exodus story in the Bible symbolizes the Jewish people journey to the Promised Land. In 2014 the story goes on.
Private Diego Tapaya, 28, was born in Bogota, Colombia. After graduating high school he began his studies in a scientific research group at the university. “Back then I studied exact sciences such as Mathematics and Physics together with philosophy and I always felt like something is missing. I had a lot of questions Christianity could not answer”, he recalls. “I love reading and learning, asking questions and seeking for answers and so I started exploring different religions and cultures like Buddhism and the Japanese and Chinese culture”.

During his spiritual journey, Diego came across the book “The kuzari” written by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi during the middle ages. The book deals with the roots of Judaism and therefore constitutes a main pillar of Jewish philosophy.
Diego was fascinated by the book and felt he finally found what he was looking for. He began studying Judaism in Colombia and continued in the “Machon Meir” yeshiva in Jerusalem. “It is hard being Jewish in Colombia, let alone converting to Judaism, so I decided to come to Israel”, he says. In 2011 he graduated from the Yeshiva and officially became a new Israeli citizen.

Duty Calls

After he got his Israeli citizenship, Diego felt the need to take a step further.
“I wanted to be worthy of my new citizenship, so I decided to join the IDF, just like anybody else”, he explains. Diego volunteered for a service of a year and a half like other Yeshiva students.
“I wanted to be a combat soldier and serve in the “Netzach Yehuda” unit (IDF Charedi combat unit) because I knew it is a religious unit suitable for religious soldiers”, he says. “Eventually I arrived at the “Negev” unit which is a part the “Netzach Yehuda” project. I feel really honored to be a part of a new project in the armed forces”.

In a month, Diego and his fellow soldiers will finish their training and receive the long-awaited combat soldiers pin. Afterwards, they will be placed in the Southern Nevatim airbase.
“We wish for more people like Diego. He is determined and courageous and a source for inspiration to other soldiers in the unit, as well as for us, his commanders”, concluded Diego’s commander, Second Lieutenant Omri Shoshani.