Western Wall Rabbi Expresses Regret After Female Reporters Segregated From Men During Pence Visit

Globes journalist Tal Schneider had threatened to sue the rabbi and the U.S. Embassy in Israel over the enforced gender separation of reporters and photographers at the holy site

Female journalists accompanying U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Western Wall separated from their male colleagues behind a fence, January 23, 2018.
Yanir Cozin, Maariv

The Western Wall's head rabbi has gone some way to apologizing for the segregation of male and female journalists during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Israel last week.

In a letter to Israeli business daily Globes, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich said he was sorry if the publication's journalist Tal Schneider had been offended by the enforced segregation, and invited journalists from the paper to come and meet with him at the Kotel in order to discuss the matter.

Schneider has agreed to meet with Rabinovitch, but made the point that U.S. Ambassador David Freidman had not responded to the letter. "I am looking forward, as a female journalist, to continue to work anywhere in Israel without being discriminated upon my gender," she said, adding that female journalists should not accept such treatment and should protest it if they do.

Schneider, who was present at Pence's Kotel visit, had threatened that she and her publication may sue the Western Wall rabbi and the U.S. Embassy in Israel over the enforced gender segregation.

Speaking on Israeli radio following the incident, Schneider said that a warning letter would be sent, and that depending on his response, legal action may or may not be taken.

"It seems unreasonable to us that male and female journalists are treated differently when they come to report and work,” Schneider told the radio station.

During Pence's visit, female reporters and photographers were required to stand behind the men on a podium erected for the journalists. The women eventually removed a tarp and stood on chairs so that they would be able to see over their male colleagues.

At the time of the Kotel visit, Schneider tweeted: "I guess people here are concerned I’m gonna grab a guy and kiss him or maybe force my female presence at him."

During U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit in May, male and female journalists stood separately but had equal access, according to Schneider.

In a personal reflection on the incident published in Globes, Schneider took her male colleagues to task for not showing solidarity with the female journalists.

“Next time, look behind you and see what is happening behind your backs,” she said.