A picture published on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Facebook page showing two men holding hands has garnered mixed reviews from the public, sparking an international debate on military decorum as well as the Jewish state's disputed acceptance of homosexuality.
The photo, used by the IDF in honor of Pride Month in the country, portrays two men in fatigues holding hands as they stroll through the streets of Tel Aviv. The caption on the photo reads: "It's Pride Month. Did you know that the IDF treats all of its soldiers equally? Let's see how many shares you can get for this photo."
Although the photo gained close to 11,000 likes since it was posted on June 10, as well as almost 9,000 shares, the comments accompanying the photo vary from negative to supportive.
"That is messed up. God is punishing us in America for turning away from him. I hate to see his beloved people making the same mistake," commented Larry Florence.
"God meant what He said in His word, read it and repent," commented Jeff Greyson.
Others supported the IDF's desicion to promote homosexual members, arguing that Israel's military is one of the most progressive in the world.
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"That is super. Go ahead Israel. Give other nations this good example," commented Hardy Klag.
"Well at least something's progressive," wrote Jeremy Edwards.
Israel has long been identified as a country whose military is very accepting of homosexual members. In 1993, it adopted a charter that included an anti-discrimination clause for homosexual soldiers, nearly 20 years ahead of the United States' repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" banning open homosexuals from service.
Still, others who reacted to the photo of two male soldiers holding hands have argued that it was merely a publicity stunt implemented by the military.
According to the Haaretz news publication, homophobia is still a major issue in Israel's military, with 45 percent of openly gay Israeli soldiers saying homophobic comments in the military remain prevalent.
Although Tel Aviv is widely considered to be one of the world's most accepting cities for homosexuals, some critics of the photo argue that the Israeli military still has some decorum to uphold, and no photos of IDF couples participating in public affection, whether heterosexual or homosexual, should be used to represent the military.
A similar issue recently arose in the United States when a military mom group, Mom 2 Mom, published on its website a photo of two American women breast-feeding their children while wearing their military fatigues.
The photo was posted in support of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, but many argued that the women were wrong to allow themselves to be photographed while wearing their uniform.
The United States military has strict regulations for those sporting fatigues, which include the prohibition of chewing gum, talking on a cell phone while walking, eating while walking, walking with one's hands in his or her pockets, or holding hands.
As an opinion piece on YNet News argued, the IDF Prime Month photo was used as a form of flattery toward one group of people in Israel, instead of being all inclusive to those who participate in the Israeli military. The opinion piece also suggested that Israel does not offer the same sort of acceptance to religious troops.
"Less than a year ago, religious cadets were kicked out of officers' course because they had trouble listening to female singing. The IDF sacrificed them on the altar of political correctness, and this is precisely what it does now with the photo of the two gay soldiers in uniform," wrote Hagai Segal in the YNet News commentary titled "Keep gay pride out of IDF."
"This photo makes no contribution to the original IDF mission; it merely offers blatant flattery in line with the taste of shapers of public opinion," Segal concluded.