A new experience in familiar territory

A new experience in familiar territory photo 1

When learning about Jewish law in the Talmud, it's common practice to go over the last thing you learned before starting something new. This is called chazera. The reason for this is to put the new material you're learning into proper context and make sure you don't forget the old when learning the new.

Most importantly, review allows you to get a fresh take on something. This is why we read the same book or watch the same favorite movie a dozen times. It never gets old, and we discover something new every time.

Surprisingly, my recent trip to Israel left me with a similar feeling. Despite spending nearly a combined year in Israel over the course of three trips, I was surprised by how different it felt this time around. While there were things I did that I've never done before -- took a new tunnel tour in Jerusalem, saw new cities and even drove in Israel for my first time -- what really changed was me.

A new experience in familiar territory photo 2

My last visit to Israel was six years ago -- as a recent college graduate just barely 22 years old and in a lot of ways, still unsure of who he is. My five months at Pardes happened before my time in Lakeview, any visits to the Upper West Side and certainly before I knew how I was going to eventually earn a living.

Many of my friends who travel prefer going to a new place at every chance they get and I'm certainly not going to discount that thinking. Simply Google "why you should travel" and you'll find an infinite number of articles on the importance of experiencing a new place.

However, traveling sometimes creates a checkbox mentality, making it difficult to appreciate the uniqueness that place has to offer. Returning to a familiar place allows you to notice something different from previous trips or see new attractions. More importantly, a return visit can become a reflection on you as much as it is about the experience.

After spending 10 months in Israel throughout my four years of college, I got to know Israel as if it was my home and understood all its little quirks pretty well.

Always negotiate for a flat rate with the taxi driver. There is always a sherut available to take you back from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem late at night. Nothing is ever on time. Buy your groceries in the shuk rather than the supermarket.

Returning six years later, now with my own salary and experience living in two big cities, I expected everything to be the same -- but it wasn't.

There were the changes I expected to see such as new bars, restaurants, etc. But the main difference had nothing to do with Israel itself. Instead, I was the one who changed.

I was surprised at how quickly I got lost looking around. When this happened several years ago, I'd use it as a chance to work on my Hebrew and ask for directions. This time, I quickly lost patience with myself and whipped out my phone to figure out the basic idea and asked in English to fill in the gaps.

If the 20-year-old version of myself ever had a way of meeting me today, I would've been ruthlessly mocked for sticking out so much as an American.

As someone who's lived in New York now for over a year, I've become accustomed to having everything at my fingertips. In the city, it feels like I can get to almost everything I'd ever want within 15 minutes, by walking, or riding thesubway or an Uber. You can also have almost anything delivered to your apartment including groceries and dry cleaning.

Going to Israel forced me to confront my razor-thin patience right in the face. While there's no question this realization could've happened in any other country, my impatience wouldn't hit me like a two-by-four between the eyes without being in familiar territory.

Whenever we make a comparison in life, there's always a constant that we hold to ensure we're comparing on an even playing field.

Israel is that steady benchmark for me and the trip couldn't have happened at a better time. It's no coincidence that each time I've visited came during an important life transition for me -- and this trip was no exception.

By going through the same shuk, the same restaurants and walked the same routes I've taken my last two times, I was able to compare how I experienced and felt at those places to the way I did in my early 20's.

The ability to travel is one of the best gifts we can ask for. The next time you're tempted to travel to every country in the European Union or create a hit list of every country south of the border, consider a return trip for yourself. Whether it's Israel or some other place, find the location that will help you grow and teach you about yourself.

Perhaps the rabbis were onto something when they stressed the importance of review when studying a new text. They realized that reviewing is the only way forward.


Adam J Miller photo
Adam is a Chicago native currently living in New York after the temptation of the Jewish scene in the Upper West Side became too much to resist. He graduated from UMass as a double-major in journalism and international sports marketing where he worked for 3.5 ... Read More



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