When Sam Gosling arrived at the end of his beret march, a special visitor from 13 thousand kilometers away was there waiting to greet him.
After a grueling few hours, Sam Gosling and the rest of his unit from the Nahal Brigade had finally reached the summit of Masada and the end of their beret march. He wasn’t expecting what happened next. “We finished at Masada and started climbing up really slowly. When we arrived, I saw someone wearing my Dad’s shirt,” he says. “I didn’t understand how this could be, and then suddenly I realized – it really was my dad.” Despite his exhaustion, Sam ran to meet his father, and gave him a huge hug.
After an emotional reunion, Sam found out how the surprise visit was arranged. “I have a friend from home who is a shooting instructor at the Nahal training base,” he says. My parents spoke to her and organized the whole thing.” Sam’s commanders were aware of the visit, but didn’t breathe a word.
Sam Gosling and his father Anthony on the top of Masada
Growing up on the other side of the world
Sam was born in Israel 21 years ago to parents who had made aliyah from New Zealand. When he was one year old, the family decided to go back. He grew up there until he was 15, when his family moved to Melbourne, Australia. “There aren’t many Jews in New Zealand, and my parents wanted me to have Jewish friends,” Sam says.
Sam studied in a Jewish high school in Melbourne, and after graduating, joined a Bnei Akiva year in Israel program, where he improved his Hebrew and experienced life in the country. At the end of the year, he went back to Australia and started a Bachelor’s degree. But something inside him told him he had to return to Israel.
“After three months, I realized that I wanted to make aliyah and join the army,” Sam says. “I met a lot of people when I was in Israel for the year. At some stage I thought to myself – why do my friends have to go to the army and I don’t? It didn’t feel logical living in Australia when I should be here.”
Leadership from a young age
Getting from New Zealand to Israel involves two flights and at least 25 hours of travelling. “I loved growing up in New Zealand, but our connection with Israel wasn’t very strong,” says Sam. “We had Bnei Akiva and representatives from Israel, but New Zealand is about as far away as you can get. I didn’t know that much about it growing up.”
Sam says that his sense of responsibility and desire to serve came as the result of spending his formative years in New Zealand, a country with only 7,000 Jews. “Because it was such a small community, there was a lot of pressure on me to set an example,” he says. “They used to call me and my dad up for synagogue services all the time – there was no other option. That pressure was a good thing: it gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. After growing up with that sense of responsibility, I wanted to feel that again and do something that would contribute to the country.”
Auckland, New Zealand – Sam’s hometown
Making the transition
After re-acclimatizing to Israel, Sam enlisted in the IDF and joined the Nahal Brigade. “I experienced a lot of culture shock at the beginning,” he says. “But that was something I was looking for. It keeps me on my toes.The other guys in my unit are trying to teach me a bit of chutzpah and how to get what you want!”
Anthony Gosling beamed with pride as he watched his son complete the 70 kilometer march. “It was his decision, and we knew that if he wanted it he had to do it by himself – speak to the Jewish Agency emissary, and organize everything. We couldn’t not be proud of his decision, and we hope that he knows that we support him in this all the way.”
Sam’s father arrived in Israel on a Tuesday, and on that Saturday night left on the long journey back to Melbourne. But for him, the short trip was more than worth it. “It was a beautiful morning, with the sun shining – not that it mattered to Sam, who was exhausted from the long trek,” Anthony said. “He needs to be here, and I needed to be here. You don’t get a lot of opportunities like this. I think that this was was of the most powerful experiences of my life”.