“I’m not looking for peace. I’m also not looking for revenge, because I’ve already lost the war,” says Juliana Bausi.
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Thirty days isn’t nearly enough. Forever might not be, either.
Itay Bausi, 22, was a sergeant, serving as a combat paramedic in the Israel Defense Forces’ Duvdevan unit, among the most elite counter-terrorist units in Israel.
He went to the doomed Nova Music Festival in Re’im not expecting to save lives or to lose his own, but simply, like so many there, to dance and have some fun.
The Israeli-American already had his discharge plans and had booked a flight to travel to Asia with his friends.
On the morning of Oct. 7, he and others tried to escape the party after Hamas paragliders swooped in and started indiscriminately gunning down attendees, but Hamas blocked the roads. To Bausi’s right was a Hamas ambush in waiting. To the left, Israelis and foreign nationals were already under heavy fire.
Instead of running for cover, Itay and his friend, Ben, without weapons or ammunition, treated the wounded, and later helped police officers fight back. He called his parents and told his mother, Juliana, that he wanted to drive to his base, thinking that Israeli emergency forces would arrive any minute. That’s the last time they were in touch.
Bausi’s body was found in the desert four days later.
“My life is a nightmare. Surreal is not the right word. Our lives are shattered,” Juliana Bausi told JNS from her home in Kvutzat Yavne in central Israel. “We’re still in shock. And I pray that eventually, we can heal. Of course, not completely, because I just buried my baby boy. But, hopefully, there can be healing, and we will be able to experience joy in the future. That’s what I’m going through.”
‘I can barely move’
Itay, the second-born child to New York City native Juliana and her husband, said she knows every mother calls their kid a gem. She says that in Itay’s case, it’s true through and through.
Empathetic to animals, funny, charismatic and with “a heart of gold,” Juliana said friends of hers came up to her at Itay’s shiva, telling her they had reached out to her son to try to get him to put their own children on the right track.
Itay had worked with at-risk youth for a year in the Ha’Roei Ha’Ivri program. Several of them approached Juliana, informing her Itay had stayed in touch with them, encouraging them to find their way.
“He never told me these things. He was so modest and never looked for the limelight,” said Juliana. “He was a very professional soldier; he was professional in everything he did. He really demanded excellence of himself. And he was a sweetheart.”
The end of the shloshim, or traditional 30-day Jewish period of mourning, has come and gone. Juliana said her kibbutz has been incredibly supportive of her and her family, with a hamal, or “war room,” opening up since the news broke of Itay’s death.
“Thank God, there’s a lot of support. People are waking me up in the morning and putting me to sleep at night, and making sure I’m eating. I can barely move, honestly,” she said. “Lots of friends from America are in constant contact, but it’s not easy to talk on the phone with people because how do you explain to Americans what our life is like here in Israel right now?”
‘We hear the war’
This is all happening while she hears the boom of rockets still being launched from the Gaza Strip by Hamas and other terrorist factions, due to the proximity of her kibbutz to the border.
“We hear the war,” she said.
Parents of fellow Duvdevan soldiers and those who have lost their kids in terror attacks have come to pay their condolences. Juliana described them as “really amazing people.” But it does nothing to heal her wounds.
“They don’t have anything too encouraging to say. I guess time does its thing,” she said. “But the violent way that he left this world, just thinking about how much he dedicated himself to the army, and what happened that Saturday, where I know that he in his mind was holding down the fort until the army would come and help them, and it didn’t—it’s just a lot to take in.”
While Juliana continues to process the events of the last month, she says he has mixed emotions about what she wants to see next.
She told JNS that her husband, who grew up in a home that supported the Likud Party, has been protesting against Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu “for about 10 years, even before it was in style to do that.” She said it is ironic that in the end, “he buried his son because of a lack of leadership,” putting the onus on high-ranking political and military officials who she said didn’t pay enough attention to lower-ranking soldiers who reportedly passed along information about unusual Hamas activity on the border in the days, weeks and months leading up to the Oct. 7 massacre.
Beyond that, Juliana told JNS she feels “more Jewish and more Israeli than I ever have” in her nearly 30 years there. She said she is looking to “our Druze cousins” who can “teach us a lesson in terms of how to live in the Middle East. And that living among our Arab cousins is going to take a stronger hand than we thought it might take.”
She also called Iron Dome “a big mistake,” in that it gave Israeli residents a false sense of security and allowed sporadic Gaza terror rocket attacks to take place without the need to address the key issue of Hamas’s genocidal intentions. She noted that the rocket attacks started almost immediately after Israel withdrew from Gaza in the summer of 2005.
“That started making me think: When you live in such a small country, when you give up land, what does that mean?” she said. She noted that she had initially been a proponent of the withdrawal, due to the economic and diplomatic benefits she foresaw taking place.
Above all, Juliana said, “I’m not looking for peace. I’m also not looking for revenge, because I’ve already lost the war. I’m not going to be the winner at all. And no mother is going to be the winner from this story, anybody who’s buried their kids.”
‘My kid is a hero’
She said that she would remain on her kibbutz, and had no intention of running away. Just like her son. Videos Juliana said she will never watch show Itay on the frontline of the effort to repel the Hamas terrorists at Re’im, directing police forces, despite having no gun of his own.
“Because he’s Duvdevan, he’s trained way more than the cops if, God forbid, there is a terror attack. He was trained not to run,” she said.
Itay was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, with “apples in his knapsack,” according to Juliana.
And he held down the fort. Between 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., he had two hours to escape. Instead, he was there giving people CPR, putting those he found in vehicles and taking them to the first-aid tent, recounted his mother.
“He’s a hero. My kid is a hero,” she said. “And he was murdered in cold blood by animals and monsters.”
Juliana thought again, perhaps remembering her son’s love for the animals on his kibbutz, before rephrasing: “Animals are much better than these people.”
Image: Itay Bausi. Credit: Courtesy.