- Female journalists were forced to stand behind their male colleagues while covering Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, this week.
- The reporters expressed outrage as many were unable to see Pence over their male colleagues’ cameras and microphones.
- “Women journalists are second-class citizens,” Tal Schneider, a well-known Israeli journalist, tweeted.
Female journalists were forced to stand behind their male colleagues while covering Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel’s Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, on Tuesday.
The reporters protested the segregation, tweeting their criticisms with the hashtag #PenceFence, and expressed outrage that many in their cohort were unable to see Pence and other officials over their male colleagues’ cameras and microphones.
“Separation at the Western Wall. The women stuck in isolation and cannot photograph, work,” Tal Schneider, a well-known Israeli journalist, tweeted. “Women journalists are second-class citizens.”
She added, “The entire male press pool has their back to us, careless & free and don’t give a damn on the separation.”
Pence’s aides eventually gave the women chairs to stand on and removed the top of a tent, making it easier for them to view the event, but the women were not allowed to cross the partition that divides the men’s prayer area from the women’s much smaller area.
“Every effort was made to accommodate both female and male journalists while observing the rules in place at the Western Wall,” Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, said in a statement.
There is longstanding controversy over gender segregation at the holy site. The Jewish Western Wall Heritage Foundation, an ultra-Orthodox organisation that controls the wall, does not allow women to read aloud from the Torah, wear prayer shawls, sing, or attend joint services with men.
Last summer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abandoned plans to create an egalitarian section of the site where men and women could pray together after facing resistance from ultra-Orthodox politicians. The move angered many American Jewish groups opposed to the discriminatory rules.
The foundation insists that the custom, which has developed over the past few decades, will not change.
“It was the same situation during President Trump’s visit to the Western Wall in May 2017,” the foundation in a statement to The Washington Post. “We reject any attempt to divert the discussion from the important and moving visit of the US Vice President and his wife at the Western Wall.”
Women of the Wall, a group that advocates for an egalitarian prayer area at the site, said the arrangement was unacceptable.
“Today, senior women journalists from Israel and abroad were discriminated against,” the group said in a statement to The Post. “Today, they have experienced firsthand what happens to a woman who challenges the ultra-Orthodox monopoly of the Western Wall.”
Another female journalist was asked to remove her bra during a security screening
The Western Wall event was not the only incident in which female journalists were subject to discrimination during Pence’s visit.
On Monday morning, one female reporter representing Finland’s state TV was asked to remove her bra during an aggressive security screening in Netanyahu’s office, The Post reported. The journalist, who was visiting from Finland and is of Palestinian descent, refused to do so and was not permitted to cover Pence and Netanyahu’s news conference.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents international journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, called the incident “clear ethnic profiling.”
As Vice President Pence visits the Western Wall, male journalists are given the front-row spots. Female journalists are standing in the very back, standing on chairs to try to see over all of the guys. pic.twitter.com/K3tnABSUnv
— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) January 23, 2018
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