While in Israel, Vice President Mike Pence made a speech at Knesset and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin. His last stop on this first visit to Israel was the Western Wall. As he prayed privately, women journalists covering his trip were separated from the men, forced to stand on plastic chairs in order to properly perform their jobs. This gender-based discrimination made waves first on social networks, earning the hashtag #PenceFence, and later in traditional global media from the Washington Post to the Guardian, from CNN to the BBC.
As I read some of the #PenceFence comments on Twitter, I realized the issues raised there are identical to the ones Women of the Wall have been dealing with for 29 years. The first is the Western Wall itself. VP Pence is a conservative evangelical Christian. Why was visiting the Wall so important to him? For the same reason it is important to all of us. It is our center, it is the heart of existence. For me, and I’m sure for many others who pray there, the Wall is a well of spirituality and emotion.