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article imagePence visits Western Wall, says 'very inspiring'

By AFP     Jan 23, 2018 in Politics

US Vice President Mike Pence visited Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, on Tuesday as he wrapped up a trip to the disputed city that Washington has declared Israel's capital.

Pence and his wife Karen visited the wall separately as required by the ultra-Orthodox Jewish authorities who govern the site under strict interpretation of religious law.

The vice president, wearing a black skullcap, inserted a piece of paper inside a crack in the ancient wall's stones in accordance with the tradition of leaving a prayer.

He then placed his right hand on the wall before stepping backwards and gazing at the site for a few moments and signing the guest book.

No Israeli government officials accompanied Pence on the visit.

"It is my great honour to pray here at this sacred place. God bless the Jewish people and God bless the state of Israel always," he wrote.

"Very inspiring," Pence said after leaving.

After visiting the wall, Karen Pence was seen visiting a shop nearby in Jerusalem's Old City. They were due to depart from Israel at around 5:20 pm (1520 GMT).

The Western Wall is among the last remnants of the second Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It lies in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

Many Israelis are likely to interpret the Western Wall visit as Pence further backing their claim over the entire city.

Pence followed in the footsteps of Trump, who became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall in May last year.

Since arriving on Sunday, Pence has repeatedly reaffirmed Trump's December 6 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, though he has reiterated that final borders must be negotiated.

The Palestinians have been deeply angered by the declaration and boycotted Pence's visit.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital broke with decades of international consensus that the city's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

As journalists gathered to cover Pence's visit to the wall, women reporters criticised what they called discrimination after being forced to stand behind men under rules enforced by Jewish ultra-Orthodox authorities.

The wall's gender separation rule was applied to journalists, effectively forcing women to stand behind men and leaving them with worse access.

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