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April 17, 2023 10:51 am

A DJ Struggles to Return to the Dance Floor Following Catastrophic Terror Attack

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avatar by Anav Silverman Peretz


Illustrative: The scene of a shooting on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff street. Photo: United Hatzalah.

The past year has been filled with tragic losses for the state of Israel. A wave of terror attacks have claimed the lives of countless innocent people, leaving black holes in the fabric of families, communities, and the nation. Just recently, two British-born sisters, Maia, 20, and Rina Dee, 15, from Efrat, were murdered when a Palestinian gunman opened fire on their car as they and their mother were driving in the Jordan Valley. The mother, Lucy, who was in critical condition in the hospital, died three days later. Her three other children and husband, who has been unable to sleep since his daughters’ deaths, are reeling from shock.

Watching the nightly news here in Israel is becoming a tear-jerking experience. While not all the stories of terror victims reach the international press, they find their way into the hearts of the Israeli collective almost on a monthly basis. Since January 2023, there have been 18 innocent civilians in Israel killed by terror attacks, including drive-by shootings, roadside bombings, and car rammings. This number does not include the countless victims who have been critically injured in the terror attacks and can no longer walk, talk, or function as they previously did.

One of those victims is Rotem Mansano, 34, who was seriously wounded in Tel Aviv, when Palestinian terrorist Mutaz al-Khawaja, 23, opened fire near a cafe on Dizengoff Street on March 9. The terrorist also critically injured Mansano’s best friend, Or Eshkar, 32,  and moderately wounded another friend, Michael Osdon, 36. Eshkar eventually succumbed to his wounds and died 11 days after the shooting. The three friends were on the way to a close friend’s wedding when the attack took place.

Mansano is now fighting to return to his regular life. A popular Tel Aviv DJ and music producer, who frequently performed at weddings, parties, and other venues, Mansano was always ready with a smile and a laugh. Israel’s Channel 13 recently documented Mansano’s long road to recovery after the terror attack rendered him immobile, no longer able to move his limbs, because a bullet hit his spinal cord.

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But while undergoing rehabilitation, Mansano can’t stop thinking about his best friend, Eshkar, who he first met at a swimming competition in Jerusalem when they were kids. They remained best friends into their adulthood, frequently traveling around the world together. The first thing Mansano asked the doctor when he woke up from his surgery was, “where is Eshkar?”

 His best friend was hospitalized in the same hospital, a few meters away from his room. But while Mansano began to slowly regain his strength and was eventually able to breathe on his own and communicate, Eshkar’s condition deteriorated. Mansano’s friends and family did not divulge what was going on with Mansano’s best friend, in order to help Masano keep his spirits up while he was fighting for his own life.

When Eshkar passed away, his family and friends knew they had to let Mansano know the truth before he would find out on the news. “A friend told me and I haven’t been able to stop crying ever since,” said Mansano. “I keep thinking what we could have done differently that night.”

But about one thing Mansano was certain about — there was no way he could miss his best friend’s funeral. Paralyzed and in heavy pain, Mansano demanded that the doctor allow him to attend the funeral. With doctor’s approval, Mansano, in a neck brace and strapped to a bed, was transported via an ambulance to the cemetery, where he accompanied Eshkar on his final journey.

”I know he would have done the same for me, without a shadow of doubt,” Mansano said of his friend.

The last moment Mansano remembers from that fateful Thursday night of the terror attack was crossing the street and joking with his two friends. Just another night in Tel Aviv. But a spray of bullets would change the lives of the two best friends forever.

The day after Eshkar’s funeral, Mansano was released from Ichilov Hospital to  Loewenstein Hospital Rehabilitation Center, to begin an arduous rehabilitation process including intense physiotherapy and medical checkups. His mother, Mazal, prays that her son will walk again someday. ” We are optimistic. With God’s help, Rotem will be able to fully move his hands and legs again,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mansano’s close friends are raising funds to help cover the costs of Mansano’s long and expensive road to recovery. The fundraising campaign, called The Journey of Rotem, has teamed up with the nonprofit Ish Tzaddik Haya, led by Rabbi Chaim Eideles, to raise the funding. Thus far the campaign has been able to raise more than 2 million NIS from the public.

”Rotem is not just one of the best DJs here in Israel. He lives to make people happy. His goal in life is to bring joy to couples on their most special day. And just at the height of Rotem’s career, one moment changed everything,” commented Dor Avidan, a close friend of Mansano.

Meanwhile, Avidan has mobilized the DJ community in Israel to help Mansano out by voluntarily filling in for him at wedding venues that he was scheduled to perform at prior to the attack.

”They say that Israel is divided right now, but when someone is at their lowest point, our nation is amazing — everyone steps in to help out,” said Noam Tzuberi, another close friend of Mansano who helped organize the fundraising campaign.

“Rotem’s road to recovery could mean several years without steady income alongside expensive rehabilitation treatments, maybe even necessary medical care abroad. We want to help provide him with financial security until he can return to play music.”

The writer made aliyah from Maine in 2004. She works as an English educator and lives in a small community in the Negev desert with her family.

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