Women Journalists Were Told To Stand Separately From Men On Pence's Western Wall Visit

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US Vice President Mike Pence touches the wall durung a visit in the Western Wall on January 23, 2018 in Jerusalem, Israel. Pence said on Monday that the US embassy would move to Jerusalem by the end of the year. Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

A visit by Vice President Mike Pence to Jerusalem's Western Wall has provoked outrage among female members of the foreign press corps after they were forced to stand behind their male counterparts.

Pictures taken by female journalists at the scene and shared on social media showed women had to cover the vice president's visit from a fenced-off area at the rear end of the compound that includes the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.

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Israeli diplomatic correspondent for the Hebrew-language Globes newspaper Tal Schneider told Haaretz she felt discriminated by the segregation of the press corps.

"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," she said.

Another journalist, Noga Tarnopolsky, tweeted that White House staffers explained the segregation was a result of what they termed "Western Wall rules."

Representatives from Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to Newsweek's questions about what these rules entailed. It is not clear whether segregation of traveling journalists at the site happened when the White House press corps travelled with President Donald Trump in May.

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US Vice President Mike Pence touches the wall durung a visit in the Western Wall on January 23, 2018 in Jerusalem, Israel. Pence said on Monday that the US embassy would move to Jerusalem by the end of the year. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Eventually White House personnel removed the covering over the female journalists' section so that they could stand on top of chairs to get a view of the visit. However, the hashtag "PenceFence" was already being used by reporters to discuss the event on social media.

Visits by U.S. officials to the Western Wall, which lies in Jerusalem's old city, have stoked controversy because of the holy site's location. It was captured with the rest of East Jerusalem by Israeli forces during the Six Day War in 1967. The annexation of the city has not been recognized by the international community which says it is part of the West Bank.

Pence's visit to Israel and the Western Wall, the first made by any U.S. official since the Trump administration announced that it would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December has been deeply divisive.

Women journalists are prevented from covering #Pence. We are kept separate from men & behind them. White House staffers explain it is “Western Wall rules.” pic.twitter.com/KZcsdGqD2M

— Noga Tarnopolsky (@NTarnopolsky) January 23, 2018

The move by the White House broke with decades of U.S. foreign policy which had previously refused to acknowledge either Israeli or Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem in hopes of reaching a two-state solution to the two parties intractable conflict.

Israel's President Reuven Rivlin today echoed earlier statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising Pence and Trump over the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinian leadership has condemned the announcement.

Last week the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump's plan was a "slap in the face" and he refused to meet Pence during this most recent trip.

Beyond the decades-long standoff who has sovereignty over the Western Wall, the site has become a focal point for gender discrimination in Judaism in recent years.

Members of the Women of the Western Wall, a liberal pressure group, have been advocating for equal rights between men and women where the prayer area is segregated. The women have argued they should be allowed to wear prayer shawls and pray out loud at the Western Wall.

Prayer at the wall and the creation of a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall, where sexes would be able to mix, has created a schism across the globe between the Reform and Orthodox branches of Judaism.