Although I am an Atlanta native, my heart is in Israel. Israel is my home.

I was 7 years old when I started Israeli folk dancing. Each week my mom, who is also a folk dancer, would bring my sister and me to the dance IFD sessions. Over the years I fell in love with the music, dance steps, people, culture and community.

When I was 16, I took over the group that I still teach. Many of my dancers have known me since I was 7, and some have been in the group even longer. I’ve traveled to Israel to lead dance tours, dance in festivals and participate in dance sessions throughout the country. Twice a year I visit dance camps, where we dance for 18 hours a day, four days straight. We learn new Israeli dance steps from famous Israeli choreographers.

Meliss Jakubovic

Israeli folk dancing is in 35 countries around the world. Because each song has a specific choreographed step, you could go anywhere in the world, and everyone in the room will know the same steps.

Israel has given me so much: dancing, global friends, steps that give me purpose, a connection to Israeli music, the Hebrew language, an understanding of the culture. It has brought the world closer to me and made me feel at home. For 18 years I’ve taught Israeli dancing to children, teens, adults and seniors, spreading my love and joy for this cherished art. My sons, Ilan, 9, and Shai, 11, are also folk dancers. L’dor vador.

See all the reflections on Israel’s meaning on this special anniversary.