Janna Tusa
The Inconsolable New Yorker

There are no deities amongst us: Only the misguided

“Be glad, be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists. The existence of them and the projects they have built i.e. Israel, it’s all antithetical to peace. So yes, I feel very comfortable — very comfortable — calling for those people to die.” Khymani James, leader of the anti-Israeli protests at Columbia University, January 2024.

It is after midnight in New York. I sit here gathering my thoughts in anticipation to talk to Yocheved Kim Ruttenberg tomorrow morning- who left life in Dallas, Texas one week after October 7th with 23 bags of items to be a beacon hope while her brother, an IDF noncommissioned officer in the commando brigade as a lone soldier, was knee deep in the trenches of the war. After meeting Hagit Greenberg Amar and her husband Shay, they established what was then a small Facebook group Sword of Iron – Israel Volunteer Opportunities to organize volunteer efforts in the wake of the October 7th tragedy. The small Facebook group has grown to over 23K members and is one of the most significant volunteering networks built from pure love, passion, and dedication to the country I deeply cherish as “home” in many aspects. Kim and Hagit are heroes without capes. They do not ask for anything in return except bringing people to Israel to continue to heal and bridge American and Israeli’s. I have not met Hagit, however I can tell you Kim is not just beautiful on the outside. Her smile and interest in your pursuits radiates through her smile. As a searcher of souls in the realm of human connection and good doers she is what the world needs leading us as we progress towards generational change. At the age of 23, she has the runway to be the glimmer of hope we need for future generations. Thanks to Sword of Iron – Israel Volunteer Opportunities I have been able to connect with amazing organizations and provide support to impacted communities and make heartfelt connections that continuously inspire me to do more through 1996 Glimmer of Hope.

Sword of Iron – Israel Volunteer Opportunities logo. Photo courtesy of the Sword of Iron – Israel Volunteer Opportunities Facebook group.

I am deeply affected by the news of protests and damage at Hamilton Hall in Columbia University today. Reflecting on the series of anti-Israel demonstrations on college campuses after the events of October 7th, I recall the heartbreaking encounters with innocent individuals facing undeserved hostility. These words resonate with profound sorrow and anger, as I think about remarkable people like Kim and others I have recently met, as well as those who have been part of my life for over twenty-seven years. Many of them are unaware of why they are unjustly targeted. I am touched by the love of those close to me, the kindness of strangers, the new friends who make me feel like we have known each other for ages, and Ettie, my companion on my flight home. The mere mention of the Israeli people in such a context stirs strong emotions within me.

Photo credit Janna Tusa Altenburg – Tel Aviv Port, Tel Aviv- Yafo April 15, 2024.

My mission is to combat the propaganda and rhetoric prevalent today by offering educational initiatives on campuses. These programs aim to offer profound perspectives on our common democratic principles and the strong, unified relationship between our nations. The projects I am involved in are focused on fostering both lasting generational transformations and addressing the immediate requirements of the victims of October 7th, all driven by a sincere sense of compassion. The profound human connection and strong sense of community I encountered throughout Israel stayed with me constantly until I reached the doors of Ben Gurion airport. In contrast, exiting the doors at JFK in NYC, you are greeted with reminders that you are on your own in navigating the challenges of the urban jungle. Despite being surrounded by a multitude of people; it can be the loneliest place to find oneself. To say I’m homesick is an understatement.

A US protester wears Columbia University’s disciplinary notice covered over by support for Palestinians in Gaza at Columbia University on April 29, 2024, in New York City. (Alex Kent / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP).

During my time in Israel, I faced insincere support here at home. Since returning, I have been repeatedly told that some individuals who fail to grasp the depth of my passion and vision consider me “crazy” for going there. I responded with laughter, considering the daily violence in the streets of NYC, including anti-Israel protests like the recent occupation of Hamilton Hall, anti-Semitic crimes, assaults on women and children, deliberate targeting of NYPD officers, home invasions, and subway assaults. Contrasted with the safety of walking alone in well-lit streets filled with people in Tel Aviv at 11 pm, it highlights the misconception. The only characters you’ll find are the oversized teddy bears that serve as reminders for those who are still missing. Ignorance truly is a regrettable state. Change cannot be achieved from a distance. One must experience truth before passing judgment. I aim to derive happiness from my actions, ensuring that my efforts are driven by pure intentions. If being called crazy for loving is the result, then I accept it wholeheartedly.

Photo Credit: Janna Tusa. Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv-Yafo. Kfir Bibas. April 20, 2024.

Have you read the opening remarks multiple times and pondered deeply? Have you said them aloud like a monologue? I challenge you to grab your phone, call a friend, and repeat it multiple times. What does your inner voice tell you? Whether you advocate for a cease-fire or are tone deaf to the war, can you truly find it acceptable to call for the death and dehumanization of the Israeli people, especially considering what they experienced on October 7th and are still enduring with 133 hostages in dark dungeons underground? Would you be able to meet Ella Ben Ami’s gaze as she recounts waking up from a dream about her father, drenched in a cold sweat, yearning for his return instead of still being held captive? Even after being taken hostage and then released, she remains determined to fight for those who are unable to defend themselves, drawing strength from the memory of her father’s abandonment. Can you face the orphans who witnessed their parents’ demise that day and explain to them that they should not be entitled to live because their ancestors migrated to Israel in the late 1800s?

How would you handle someone telling you that someone you love doesn’t have the right to live, that they deserve to die, simply because they are …

Do you happen to know me personally? Perhaps you do. It’s possible that you have a close bond with me. Imagine if I revealed that my ancestry provides evidence that I also originate from the ancient Levant. Would you tell me that I have lost my right to exist?

When did any of these warriors assume the role of a deity?

There are no deities amongst us. Only the misguided.

About the Author
I am a native New Yorker that experienced the deep connection to Israel at the young age of 16. I always believe that Israel chose me when I was selected to represent America and immerse myself into the amazing culture. I am now forty-three and my unparalleled love remains the same if not stronger as we stand tall against the dehumanization of all Israeli's. I studied the Holocaust while battling theologians on the theory if God was responsible in my early 20's, attained my degrees in social work to help children of trauma, moved on to become a financial executive, a mother to three awesome children, a semi-professional opera singer, currently a sales and operations executive for a national private education company, and still here working for my purpose.
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