Updates from the Holy Land pilgrimage group

When in Jerusalem, we are mostly sheltering in place with minimal ventures out for necessities like pharmacy needs. We can eat, relax and pray within the cathedral walls. The neighborhood is quiet as some businesses are operating fewer hours — mostly because shopowners and employees who live in the West Bank can’t get through checkpoints easily if at all. Palestinian Muslims especially have to be careful out of fear of retribution by Jewish extremists if they are in the wrong place; so some busineses are on a skeleton crew.  In the meantime we are being cautious, and prudent; and all of the activities near or in the West Bank have been cancelled.

Everyone is grateful for all the support, love, and care coming from home. We continue to pray for a resolution to the situation—and peace in the Holy Land.

October 10, 2023 – Galilee

Today we ventured out of Nazareth to Galilee, visited the Church of the Multiplication, Capernaum, and held a mass on the lakeshore. We swam a little late this afternoon. All is business as usual up here in Nazareth. We plan to return to the cathedral close in East Jerusalem tomorrow.

There have been many blessings in the midst of this situation, and we are determined to make the best of it. Our leaders and hosts are very candid, and we have at least two open conversations per day assessing the information we have at the time. Those who have tried to leave in the past couple of days have had some challenges getting out.

Thank you for your prayers.

October 9, 2023 – Nazareth

Greetings St Alban’s! We are coming to you from beautiful Nazareth, where we are staying at the Sisters of Nazareth Convent.

Our day started with a two hour drive up the west coast of Israel to Caesarea. The original city was built by Herod the Great starting in 30 BCE and is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. It became a great commercial city and by 6 BCE was the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine. It is now a beautiful archeological national park. We walked among the ruins of the theatre, promontory palace, amphitheater (used for chariot racing), and impressive harbor. The site was not crowded due to the unrest so we were able to take our time as we followed our wonderful guide Rodney from site to site. We felt so lucky to be in such a beautiful place with the gorgeous Mediterranean beyond the ruins. We had free time for lunch and further exploration. Fr. Paul even took a swim in the water! We closed out our visit with ice cream and boarded the bus for our second activity.

Closer to Nazareth, we visited another archeological park on the site of the city of Sepphoris. After the death of Herod the Great, his son, Herod Antipas, was made governor of the area and rebuilt the city, proclaiming it the “Ornament of Galilee.” I believe it was considered at that time to be the capital of Galilee. Given its close proximity to Nazareth, it is possible that Jesus and his father might have come to the city for work. It is also believed by some that this was where Mary was born and where her parents resided. We saw a Roman theatre, a 5th century Byzantine synagogue, a Roman villa dating back to 200 AD, and 12th century Crusader tower. There are over 60 mosaics dating from the 3rd to 6th century AD. The most famous of these is of a young g woman that has been dubbed the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.”

After a full day, we boarded the bus one more time to make our way to the Convent. Before enjoying a delicious meal of soup, chicken, potatoes, and beans, we camped out in the courtyard and sang along to The Beach Boys and Bob Marley. We feel very safe with our St. George’s team and they are doing a great job of rescheduling our itinerary due to the current situation.

We look forward to seeing you soon and appreciate your continued prayers.

October 8, 2023 – Calvary

October 6, 2023 – The Wilderness

October 2, 2023 – Petra

Inhabited since prehistoric times, Petra is situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and was an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. It is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.

Father Jeff


The Rev. Jeff Shankles came to St. Alban’s in 2005 as assistant rector, and eventually became rector in 2013. He and his wife, Kate, have two adult children, Audrey and William.

View all posts by Father Jeff

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