US-born Israeli mother feels tortured not knowing her son’s last moments on Oct. 7

Kibbutznik and former New Yorker Julie Bausi is furious at the IDF and government after son Itai died without help at the Nova music festival; she now feels more Israeli than ever

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Itai Bausi (right) with his mother Julie Bausi (Courtesy)
Itai Bausi (right) with his mother Julie Bausi (Courtesy)

It was the murder of her son that made Julie Bausi feel fully Israeli.

Bausi had never been to Israel when she immigrated from Queens, New York, nearly 30 years ago in 1996, to Kibbutz Kvutzat Yavne. There she met and married Shachar Bausi, had four kids, taught English and watched three of them draft into the IDF.

But when Itai Bausi, 22, her second child, was killed by Hamas terrorists during the Supernova desert rave on October 7, she felt she joined the club no one wants to be a part of, the club of bereaved families.

“You start to understand Israelis,” Bausi told The Times of Israel. “You start to understand that everybody’s f—ing traumatized.”

Sgt. First Class Itai Bausi, 22, of the Duvdevan commando unit, was off-duty when he headed to the Nova party with a sandwich and a few apples in his backpack and his friend Ben Mizrachi, a Vancouver-born former IDF medic and adopted son of Kvutzat Yavne.

Bausi had eaten Shabbat dinner with his family, washed the dishes with his brothers, taken a quick nap and was heading out around midnight when his mother was returning from walking the family’s two dachshunds.

He hugged and kissed her goodbye, and that was the last time she held her boy.

Itai Bausi, left, with his three siblings, older sister Noa (far right), and younger brothers Yoav (second from right) and Asaf (Courtesy)

Bausi and Mizrachi drove to the fields outside Re’im where the rave was held, joining other friends — “probably like 40 people from his graduating class” — and dancing all night, one of his favorite things to do.

At 6:30 a.m., as the Hamas terrorists mounted their murderous assault upon the party during their multi-pronged invasion of Gaza border communities, Bausi and Mizrachi got in their car and tried to head home but were blocked, as were so many others, by terrorists at the exit.

The area of ​​the Supernova festival where hundreds of Israelis were killed and kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in the October 7 terror onslaught, October 12, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Other friends had taken a different route and made it home to Beersheba by 9 a.m.

Those friends, along with another who ran and hid for eight hours, were the ones who ended up later filling in some of the details for Itai’s parents.

Itai Bausi and Ben Mizrachi headed back to the site of the party, found a golf cart, and used it to bring the injured to the first aid tent.

“They assumed that the army was about to get there,” said Julie Bausi. “They were helping, not running. And they had no concept of the size of this attack.”

By 10:30 a.m., as his parents were desperately trying to reach him, Bausi had been shot by the Hamas terrorists in his leg and back. He called his friends, who wanted to try and help him.

“They said, ‘Tell us what you see. We’ll send an ambulance to that location,'” said Bausi. “My kid knew probably that he was dying.”

Bausi left a voice message for his girlfriend, Carmel, telling her he loved her. He also tried calling Mizrachi five times, but he didn’t answer, because he had already been shot in the head and killed.

Itai then put his phone back in his pocket, said his mother, and “for the rest of my life, I will have to imagine him bleeding to death. Bleeding to death alone.”

Shachar Bausi (left), Itai Bausi and Julie Bausi at an IDF ceremony in an undated photograph (Courtesy)

It’s those thoughts that haunt Bausi, a straight-talking New Yorker who sat with her legs folded up at the kitchen table in her comfortable kibbutz home, the family’s dogs and cats wandering around.

She is furious at the army for allowing a rave of 3,000 partygoers to take place next to the border with Gaza and not reacting quickly when disaster struck. She is livid at the government that she says hasn’t properly functioned in months or years.

“They knew something big was going to happen, and they let these kids dance a kilometer away from the Gaza,” she said.

When this tragedy struck, said Bausi, her husband, who she said had been protesting against the prime minister “before it was even in style,” immediately said, “It’s Bibi’s fault,” referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

At least 10 years before the start of widespread anti-government protests last year, he’d go out to stand on a nearby overpass with an Israeli flag. “He saw Bibi for what he was,” she said.

Bausi wants the country’s leaders to have their pensions taken away; she shudders at the very idea of a future political life for Netanyahu or Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Julie Bausi and her son, Itai Bausi (Courtesy)

“My kid was such a good soldier and did everything they asked him to do — and these guys, Gallant and Bibi and [IDF chief of staff] Herzi [Halevi], they are responsible for the biggest catastrophe that this county has ever seen — and they had all the warnings,” she said. “People were bleeding to death in safe rooms and my kid bled to death. And there was no ambulance and no army and no policemen.”

“I’m traumatized and angry and bitter. I buried my son because of incompetence and blindness.”

Now, as Bausi, her husband, and their other three children, ages 25, 19 and 15, struggle to return to some semblance of their lives, she wonders if they’ll be able to.

“I had a perfect life up until October 7,” she said. “We’re screwed and I’m scared of losing myself.”

She feels paralyzed by tasks as simple as doing laundry or walking the dogs. She’s in physical pain, and she describes her body hurting as if she’s giving birth to Itai all over again.

Finding out the details of Itai’s murder, while painful, has been helpful in approaching some kind of closure. It was only at the funeral that the Bausis found out that Itai had been shot in the face as well, but they don’t know if the terrorists shot him after he was already dead, while he was still conscious, or perhaps as he was playing dead.

“So then you have to build a whole new story,” said Bausi, who describes herself as lucky compared to other Nova parents who have no information about their children’s final moments.

Itai Bausi (Courtesy)

She knows that as a soldier in the elite Duvdevan unit, Itai had death on his mind. For the last three years, he always said “I love you” at the end of every conversation. He didn’t usually share details of his army work with his parents, but rather with Carmel, his girlfriend.

She knows now that Itai and his army friends promised that if one were killed, the others would take his name as a middle name. Three have already had Itai’s name tattooed on their legs.

She wishes that Itai had been killed while on duty in Gaza, with his brothers-in-arms surrounding him.

“He would have left the world knowing that he was not alone,” said Bausi.

She wants people to know that Itai was a loyal, loving son and friend, that he had an extremely bright future ahead, “that he was humble and funny and a lot of fun to be around,” and that he didn’t run when disaster struck on October 7.

He was the most Israeli of her four children, the one who spoke English with a noticeable Israeli accent.

“He was very Israeli,” said Bausi. “When he died, I thought, ‘He’s never going to see the leaves change color in Vermont in the fall,’ and I realized, he didn’t care.”

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