Fabian Maamari, a Swedish-Lebanese model and photographer, has Israeli social media excited. Hugging two IDF soldiers in a photo with a short story underneath about his Lebanese roots and love for Israel, Maamari’s July 27 Facebook post has been shared and liked thousands of times.
“WOW WOW WOW WOW!!! It’s been a hectic 3 days for me and all I can say it’s [sic] THANK YOU!!!!!!” Maamari exclaims in his latest Facebook post after seeing his original one go viral. “Thank you for all your kindness and nice words. It really means a lot.”
Maamari has been living in Israel with his Israeli boyfriend for five months. He is a prolific social-media sharer and has uploaded dozens of photos of his trips around the country, night-club excursions, and participation in Tel Aviv Pride events.
But it wasn’t until he uploaded a photo of himself hugging two on-duty IDF soldiers at the Dead Sea that his Facebook page put him in the spotlight.
“This was my first time EVER seeing them live and in duty. At first I was a bit nervous because, as [a] Lebanese it’s in my nature to fear them, because of all the bad things I have heard about them in my life, and let’s face it — they don’t exactly have the BEST reputation in the world either … They are basically big enemies,” Maamari, 28, wrote in his post.
He then explains how, after telling them he’s originally from Lebanon, he was expecting an interrogation. Instead, the soldiers told him they think his country is beautiful.
So, he opened up a bit more and told them that he changed his address to Tel Aviv to be with his local boyfriend. “They really loved it and called it ‘truly revolutionary’, and even said that they have plenty of gays in the army,” Maamari writes on his Facebook Timeline. “I got to know the men inside the suits, listen to their life stories and … well, it was just magical. I was still a bit nervous talking to them but this special comfortable feeling I got when they talked to me eventually took over. So warm & friendly!”
That post was reposted by Israeli media sites as well as pro-Israel lobby groups.
“Shatters every stereotype the haters try to present. Hopefully he will share this story with his friends in Lebanon,” one commenter wrote. “It’s no surprise that he, as a gay man, feels comfortable in Israel rather than Lebanon. May they live happy lives, and G-d bless our wonderful soldiers!”
“I won’t deny, I got a little misty,” someone commented.
“Amazing absolutely touched by your story. Humanity in the face of ignorance is the solution to all our problems. One world, one love. Let’s end the stigma, abolish fear, forgive one another, share our beliefs, our goals and our aspirations to end violence and just love. Thanks for this inspirational story,” another commenter posted.
And while his post may not have meant to create a support system to help him stay in the country, it seems to have done just that.
Maamari doesn’t elaborate on his legal status in the country but a new post on his blog reads: “I really hope I can stay here in Israel as we are currently waiting for my Visa to get approved … so keep your fingers crossed people!!”