Israeli Military Celebrates Pride Month by Sharing 'Heartwarming' Facebook Photo of Gay Soldiers Holding Hands (UPDATE)

Unlike many militaries around the world — including, until recently, the Armed Forces of the United States — the Israeli Defense Forces have long been proud of their gay and lesbian service members.

In 1993, the same year the Clinton Administration issued the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" directive, Israel became one of the first nations to pass a law banning discrimination against gays in the military.

Though homophobia is still a significant problem for gay IDF soldiers, the military says it remains dedicated to treating all of its members equally.

To illustrate its support, the IDF posted a photo to its international Facebook page featuring two IDF soldiers — a real-life same-sex couple — holding hands.

The post coincides with Pride Month, and is accompanied by a caption that 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."

Facebook users quickly took up the challenge, sharing and liking the photo over ten thousand times.

"No other military in the world has taken such an initiative," an IDF spokesperson told YNet News. A Foreign Minister rep also expressed support for the initiative, calling the response "heartwarming."

UPDATE: Contrary to claims made by an IDF spokesperson, the Times of Israel is reporting that the soldiers who appear in the photograph above are employees of the IDF Spokesperson's Office, are not a couple, and, in fact, only one of them is actually gay.

When reached for comment, the spokesperson's office told the Times, "the IDF respects the privacy of the soldiers featured in the photograph, and will not comment on their identities."

[H/T: HuffPo, photo via Facebook]