Female journalists accompanying U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Western Wall on Tuesday were separated from their male colleagues and sent away to a fenced and covered area in the back of the Western Wall compound.
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After they were separated, the female journalists were placed in an area behind their male colleagues, without a line of sight to the Western Wall and therefore unable to see Pence approaching the Kotel.
The incident provoked outrage among the American female journalists accompanying him. Following their protest, White House personnel have commenced removing the covering as part of a compromise, so the journalists could stand atop chairs and catch a view of the visit.
One of the female journalists present, Globes reporter Tal Schneider, told Haaretz: "I don't like being restricted in my job just because I'm a woman. I can't stand it and it's unacceptable in the modern world. This discriminatory attitude towards women is infuriating and inappropriate in a modern country." Other female journalists present used the #PenceFence hashtag when discussing the event on social media.
"Once again the Kotel produces unnecessary international drama, marring a diplomatic achievement at a beautiful and important moment in the relations between Israel and the United States," commented MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu). "Separating female journalists and leaving them behind a partition at the Kotel during the visit of Vice President Pence is an infuriating decision that proves that that Western Wall rabbi treats the plaza as his personal property.
Azaria said that the time had arrived to formalize the role of the Western Wall rabbi in clearly-worded legislation and to demand transparency regarding his work.
"My bill would do this, and only in this way will we restore the Kotel to its status as a holy place that unifies the entire Jewish people and avoid embarrassing international incidents," she added.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which maintains the Jewish holy site, issued a response statement defending the arrangements, saying that they were identical to the set-up during Trump's visit and declared that "men and women will never be allowed to mix in the [main] plaza, not today, not in the past and not in the future." Sources in the foundation told Haaretz that the media arrangements were put in place by the U.S. embassy and security officials. In the future, they noted, there would be room to explore creative solutions.
In response, a spokeswoman for Pence said that "Every effort was made to accommodate both female and male journalists while observing the rules in place at the Western Wall״