In our family, we love to surprise each other with different things all of the time. Birthdays are an especially fun time to pull out incredible surprises. I think Mom’s 40th was probably the most intricate one that we have ever done. But second on the list of awesome birthday surprises was the most recent.
This year was Rachel’s 20th birthday, and she is over in Israel without any family. So, of course, we were not going to let her leave her teens behind in a different country on the other side of the world without any family there to celebrate with her. Back in August, I started talking with my parents about a way for me to get over there to visit Rachel over my winter break from school. From there I talked with one of my professors to see about taking my final exam early so that I could surprise Rachel by arriving earlier than she expected and being there for her birthday. I even went to the extent of editing my itinerary and sending it to her so it looked like I would arrive on the 18th instead of the 15th. While this was going on, Grandma came for a visit. Grandma, true to her wonderfully spunky and spontaneous nature, decided that she would love to come along as well. I was so thrilled! This was going to be the greatest surprise of all because we were not going to tell Rachel at all about Grandma joining in on this adventure.
Unfortunately, we were not able to get a good photo or video; but the look on Rachel’s face when we met her was absolutely priceless! She stopped mid-step with her jaw dropped, eyes bulging wide and just stuttered as I ran and gave her a huge hug! She did recover enough to raise her arms and hug me back as she stuttered “How…but…you’re…you’re here…?” Then I stepped back and to the side for a moment so that Grandma came into her view and the whole process repeated as she was floored once again in the span of two minutes!
Grandma was only able to stay for the first week but it was a wonderful time as we traveled all over the country. From Caesarea, Capernaum, and the Galilee to Masada, Qumran, Jericho, and the Dead Sea; I was able to see so many new and beautiful places that I wasn’t able to get to on my previous trips. Israel is so beautifully diverse and teeming with life, history, and culture. It was a huge blessing to be able to spend this wonderful time with my Grandmother and little sister. What a happy birthday surprise!
(Overlooking the Temple Mount in Jerusalem)
(Rachel Driving the chariot in Caesarea)
(What happens when Grandma says “yes” to salad!)
(Overlooking the Dead Sea down by Masada)
(Hanukkah in Jerusalem)
(With Grandma at Masada)
(The Sea of Galilee in Capernaum)