Reality Meets Fiction as Gilad Shalit Visits the Cast of Homeland on Tel Aviv Set

Former IDF soldier, who was in Hamas captivity for more than 5 years, meets the stars of the hit show Homeland, which tells the story of a U.S. marine who returns home after being held by al-Qaida for many years.

The young man poses for photos with the TV crew, and smiles sweetly at all those around the hallway, who, star-struck, find it hard to come up with anything to say.

They reach out their hands to shake his. He obliges. His arms are thin but sturdy. The smile never leaving his face. His eyes filled with a slightly faraway look.

Down the stairs of the old Jaffa house where the scene being filmed is taking place and into the sun, the young man puts on his dark sunglasses, puts his hands in his jean pockets and ignores the aggressive paparazzi, pushing their cameras and videos into his face, following him through the flea market, up Margoza street and into his car. People sitting in the sun in outdoor cafes do a double take. “Is that who I think it was, or am I dreaming?” a guy asks his girlfriend, pulling out an iPhone a minute too late.

Homeland, the award winning drama thriller, which is filming in Israel this week, is causing a paparazzi commotion in the country. Photographers follow Mandy Patinkin, who plays CIA Middle East division chief Saul Berenson around, seek out Navid Negahban, who plays Abu Nazir, a high ranking member of Al-Qaeda, and mob Claire Danes, who stars as CIA officer Carrie Mathison.

But fair to say the real star on the set Tuesday, the one being chased by photographers and stared at by passersby, was none other than Gilad Shalit -- who, like Nicholas Brody, the Homeland character played by Damian Lewis, was abducted by militants and held captive for years – and who had just come home. Only Shalit is no Showtime invention.

The 25-year-old Shalit, who has not been seen much in public since his release on October 18 after being over five years in Hamas captivity, seems to have spent at least some of his time catching up on his TV series. He is a fan of both the Israeli hit series “Hatufiim,” upon which the American Homeland was loosely based, and Homeland itself.

Gideon Raff, the writer-director of the Israel show invited Shalit to join the Homeland set Monday, and sat with him as he watched Danes do her takes, sitting in a tall director’s chair behind the Homeland writer-producer Howard Gordon and director Michael Cuesta. Raff was unable to invite Shalit to visit his set of “Hatufiim,” it turns out, because the last day of their filming took place on the very day Shalit was released.

“But, luckily,” says Shalit, “… there is a next season.” And he smiles.