San Francisco woman on church pilgrimage stranded in Jerusalem

A San Francisco woman is among a church group that is now trying to find their way back home to the United States from Jerusalem.

Her daughter is calling attention to their plight, asking political leaders to take immediate action.

Gema Cantu said her mom, Jenny Cantu, and the group are staying at a hotel in Jerusalem and they're largely remaining indoors.  She said they're trying to find a safe way to get home. She is on a pilgrimage with 80 other church members that encompassed four countries.  The last stop was Israel. 

"This is her first big, big trip she's never done a trip like this before," Gemma said.

Gema said the group arrived in Jerusalem shortly before the war broke out. Their flights back to the United States now canceled.

"I'm not there.  I don't know what the landscape is. I don't know what the experience is. I just want to make sure everyone is safe in coming back home," said Gema.  

She shared with KTVU video of her mom and others visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem praying for peace and safe passage back home 

Gema said  her mom is among four Americans in the church group and that the majority are from Colombia. 

Those members are scheduled to fly out on a military flight provided by the Columbian government. 

But Gema's  mom is among a smaller group looking for ground transportation to cross the border into Jordan where they have managed to book a flight back home. 

Gema said her concern is that the potential danger her mom and others face as they try to make their way to the border or that something happens at the airport.  

"I don't even want to say what my biggest fear is," said Gemma. 

She took action while waiting anxiously for her mom return to her Mission District home.  

Gema said she's emailed Governor Gavin Newsom and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi for help.  

She asked for swift action  from the U.S. government to get her mom and other Americans home.  

She said her mother is a humble and strong woman who works as a house cleaner. 

Gema shared a photo of her and her mom that was taken right before she left for her pilgrimage. 

It was an  experience of a lifetime for the devout Catholic, now faced with a challenging crisis. 

"I don't want this situation to take that away from her because she doesn't deserve that," said Gema.  

She plans to work tirelessly to be the voice for her mom and other Americans who are struggling to get out of Israel. She said  their faith is keeping them strong.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU.  Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU.