Reporter to sue over gender segregation during Pence’s Western Wall visit

Tal Schneider says female journalists being ‘sent to the back’ during US VP’s tour of holy site resembled ‘scenes from way back in history’

Female reporters covering Mike Pence’s visit to the Western Wall on January 23, 2018. Tal Schneider is at left. (Michael Lipin/Twitter, via JTA)
Female reporters covering Mike Pence’s visit to the Western Wall on January 23, 2018. Tal Schneider is at left. (Michael Lipin/Twitter, via JTA)

An Israeli journalist said Wednesday she would be taking Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch to court, after female journalists were separated from their male colleagues during US Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the holy site a day earlier, and sent to a separate fenced-off area with limited visibility.

Tal Schneider, a journalist with the Globes financial daily, told 103fm radio: “I intend to sue the Western Wall rabbi, and Globes stands with me on that.

“First we will send him a warning letter and see how he responds, and then we will go to court if necessary, because it seems unreasonable to us that male and female journalists are treated differently when they come to report and work,” she said.

US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem’s Western Wall on January 23, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)

The Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, the holiest site where Jews can pray, is governed by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish establishment and women and men have separate, adjacent areas of access to it.

The rule was applied to journalists gathering to cover Pence’s visit, effectively forcing women to stand behind men, leaving them with worse access.

A podium erected for journalists included a barrier between the male and female sides of the wall, with women journalists forced to stand behind it. After complaints, a tarp covering the podium was removed, allowing women to stand on chairs to be able to see over their male colleagues.

Some women journalists at the site posted on Twitter about the separation, using the hashtag #PenceFence.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation told Israel’s Channel 10 news on Tuesday that it had made an effort to grant “maximum accessibility” to journalists of both sexes and said it “rejected any attempt to divert the discussion away from the important and emotional visit of the US vice president and his wife to the Western Wall.”

But Schneider argued that during US President Donald Trump’s visit at the same site, all journalists were given adequate reporting conditions, with women standing apart from men but with similar visibility and access. In contrast, she said, at Tuesday’s event she felt like a second-class citizen, with “women sent to the back, resembling scenes from way back in history.”

Pence, whose visit to the Western Wall lasted all of 10 minutes, read a short prayer from the Book of Psalms, placed a note in the Wall, and lay his hand upon the ancient stones. He then signed the Wall’s guestbook before heading out.

“It is my great honor to pray here at this sacred place. God bless the Jewish people and God bless the State of Israel always,” he wrote.

Agencies contributed to this article.

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