Donald Trump has done his part to blur the line between reality television and reality for Americans, transitioning from fake boss in The Apprentice to an actual contender to U.S. presidential candidate on the evening news.
On Monday, it was the Israeli public’s turn to blink during their newscast and wonder if perhaps they were watching reality TV instead. Liron Orfali, known by his nickname “Tiltil”, is a familiar figure on television screens as a contender in not one, but two popular television reality competitions: The Amazing Race and Survivor.
But now he faced a challenge that hadn’t been cooked up by creative network producers looking for high ratings — helping to capture the perpetrator of a terrorist stabbing attack.
Orfali was ousted early from The Amazing Race in 2014, reappearing on the 2015-16 season of Survivor. A diminutive, slightly hyperactive figure, he was determined to vindicate himself onscreen and off and was bitterly disappointed when he needed to support himself as a taxi driver after a failed business venture.
Though he was a serial failure when it came to the show’s physical and mental challenges, Orfali, with his unthreatening everyman demeanor, endeared himself to his island companions and viewers, making it to the show’s finale. On March 1 he was voted “Sole Survivor” and was awarded the show’s grand prize of $260,000, 1 million shekels, as well as being voted crowd favorite by the audience.
Orfali parlayed his island triumph into his own show — “Tiltil’s Taxi”, in which he takes celebrity guests on a ride around town — which debuted last week.
In a move that couldn’t have been planned by the most skilled publicist, Orfali was filming the show Monday when news spread that there had been a stabbing attack in the neighborhood of Nahalat Yitzhak in Tel Aviv.
The attack took place when a 17-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank town of Silfit, who worked in a nearby supermarket, stabbed a 19-year-old soldier in the upper body with a screwdriver.
After fleeing the scene, he was cornered in a nearby apartment building by an impromptu group of Israelis that included Orfali.
He recounted dramatically on the evening newscast: “I was filming my show, I heard screams and shouts. I didn’t understand what was happening until someone yelled, ‘Terrorist, terrorist!’ I ran from the filming, grabbed a piece of wood board I saw, and ran to where people were chasing him into a building. People recognized me from TV and asked ‘Tiltil, what’s going on?’ I said, ‘a terrorist’ and people jumped off their bikes and motorcycle and joined me.”
He said he saw the soldier “in a pool of blood” as he and his group chased the suspected terrorist into the nearby building. As the suspected attacker ran up the stairs, “we started shouting at people in the building ‘close your doors and windows!’” Orfali said.
Ultimately, the Palestinian attacker was trapped at the top of the stairs, where he surrendered, and stayed until he was apprehended.
The soldier was treated for wounds to his upper body at Ichilov hospital.
And Tiltil presumably returned from his brief foray into real-life action back to the safer world of contrived show business drama.