Sorry, Madonna fans, but the Material Girl’s provocative Instagram photo of a Jewish man and an Arab man about to lock lips isn’t quite what it seems.
The photo is actually of two Israeli Jews: Imri Kalmann, 28, and Dekel Aiden, 24, two Tel Aviv party promoters who host a periodic gay club party called Dreck.
“I am not really Orthodox and he is not really Palestinian,” said Kalmann.
The picture first appeared last summer on a poster promoting a Dreck party in Tel Aviv. Kalmann said his team planned on something racier, but changed its concept after the start of Israel’s war with Gaza.
“We decided to do a photo shoot to say something that we feel regarding the war.”
In the picture, Kalmann is wearing a skullcap with Hebrew lettering and fake side curls that he purchased at a costume shop. Aiden is wearing a keffiyeh, or Palestinian national scarf, from Nazareth.
The poster was controversial at the time.
“Some understood the humor and liked it and appreciated it,” said Kalmann. “Some thought that in the middle of the war, when missiles were falling in Tel Aviv and people are in the war that it was not a time for peaceful homosexual posters. I don’t agree. I think that is the time to do it.”
Madonna’s Instagram post also raised hackles of her followers, most of whom apparently took it as authentic display of cross-cultural affection.
“You do not know at all what is happening here in Israel. Do not post such a picture here again,” one wrote.
Others were supportive: “Love is love my friends — doesn’t matter if you are Jewish or Muslim or whatever.”
Kalmann said that he was “shocked” when he saw Madonna post his photo on her feed. He has been to five of her concerts. “I really, really love Madonna.”
He said he has no idea how she found the image — but is happy the world is seeing it.
"I am very, very excited I have an opportunity to show this message to so many people and I thank Madonna for this."
Dreck has stirred controversy in the past when it published a photo of a staged ISIS beheading to promote one of its parties. The group later apologized on Facebook.
Mystery Solved! Madonna Viral Instagram Pic Was Israeli Gay Party Ad
Naomi Zeveloff is the former Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.