“The thin line between homo-social and homo-erotic in army life can be so confusing and torturous for a gay soldier,” explains photographer Kobi Israel. “In my native Israel, every citizen has to serve in the army when they turn 18 … These images were born from my personal experience as a gay soldier back in 1989-1992 and reflect on the unique male bonding and ‘brotherhood’ feelings.”
Israel’s images of Israeli soldiers were taken at the beginning of the millennium and were published in a 2003 photo book by Bruno Gmunder. He says his intention with the series was not to glorify war, but to celebrate the close intimacy he felt with his male comrades.
“Soldiers hug and kiss each other, say ‘I love you brother’ to each other, sleep together — sometimes lean on each others’ chests, sometimes share a tiny mattress, have communal showers where they play ‘boy games’ like throwing water and soap on each other, sometimes share a hot shower,” Israel says. “Here are the men as I knew them, playing, laughing, throwing their arms around one another’s soldiers. Through my art I can fearlessly evoke my fantasies as clearly as my memories.”
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