Yesterday morning, we female journalists were put in separate and much more restricting conditions than our male colleagues, as we covered the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to the Western Wall. The men, journalists and photographers, were put on a raised stage with steps so that the first row of photographers did not block the vision of those in the second row.
The female journalists and photographers were put on a separate stage, immediately behind the backs of the men who completely obstructed the line of vision of the women journalists and photographers.
When we first arrived, we immediately protested. Together with Noga Tarnopolsky from the Los Angeles Times, AFP's Heidi Levine, Yediot Ahronot's Yael Friedson and several others, we spent an hour asking representatives of the US Embassy who had invited us to cover the event to change the arrangements so that we could sit in the first or second row alongside our male colleagues - but our requests were completely rejected.
It was only just a few minutes before Pence arrived with the full entourage of US journalists and photographers that we had been brought some shaky chairs. When we stood upon them and the white covering above us was removed, our heads poked up through the metal frame that had held the covering, but our view of Pence was still obstructed by the men in front of us.
When Pence finished praying by the Western Wall, he turned around and received an explanation about the place from Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall. During this conversation the male journalists and photographers were allowed to move closer and document proceedings. Stuck behind in our place, Noga Tarnopolsky provided live coverage of her male colleagues granted access to cover the VP at the Western Wall as we were penned in.
This situation, in which female journalists are asked to do their work and cover an event in discriminatory conditions and separate from their male colleagues is inappropriate in a Western democratic country in 2018. The Western Wall was cleared of people before the arrival of the US Vice President. No prayers were taking place and so all those who came to cover the event and do their job had no need to be pushed to the back because of being a woman.
Following the event, "Globes" has sent a letter of protest to the Rabbi of the Western Wall requesting that the matter be arranged properly in the future.
While our difficulties as female journalists came about because of the establishment authorities, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the US Embassy, who were responsible for what happened - I want to add a word to my male colleagues - photographers, cameramen, TV broadcasters and correspondents - did you not spare a thought for what was going on behind you. You showed indifference. Instead of sentiments like "those are the rules," and "that's life" showing solidarity would have allowed we women to do our job, just like you were able to. There is no difference between men and women when it comes to covering an event. But the US Embassy and Rabbi of the Western Wall put you and us the female journalists in our places so that you blocked our view. Next time, look behind you and see what is happening behind your backs.
The Rabbi of the Western Wall said, "The arrangements for coverage of the visit of US Vice President Pence were the same as for the visit of US President Donald Trump and there was no change in the matter. The photographers were positioned in the lower plaza which is a place of prayer and synagogue, where there is separation of men and women every day and at every type of event. There is nothing new in this and there never was previously any disagreement. Even the public dispute that has reached the Supreme Court on the matter of separation is not about the prayer area that the US Vice President visited. We protest the attempt to place this dispute into the visit of the US Vice President. It is not possible today or in the past or the future to let men and women mix in the prayer plaza.
Our restricted coverage featured in the Israel, US and European media yesterday. There were articles in all the Israeli media as well as the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, NPR, BBC, the UK Guardian and many more.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 24, 2018
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