RACE, RELIGION + SOCIAL JUSTICE

Utahns on a tour of the Holy Land talk about witnessing the war break out

Oct 16, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 5:41 pm

Mark and Jan Severts, from Washington, Utah went with a travel group to Israel. Then war broke out....

Mark and Jan Severts, from Washington, Utah went with a travel group to Israel. Then war broke out.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah tourists trapped in Israel when the war broke out are trying to get home.

Mark and Jan Severts, from Washington, Utah, planned their trip to see Israel for the last few months. They went on a trip with the Utah-based tour group Israel Revealed.

They said, a couple of days into their trip, when they were in Tel Aviv, they felt a rumbling in the middle of the night.

(Courtesy: Mark Severts)

Beginning of war

“I thought maybe it was an earthquake,” Mark said. “In the morning, we found out it wasn’t an earthquake, it was nearby missile strikes that we experienced.”

They said they began to notice military staging.

“There were miles and miles of cars that were lined up where the military personnel who had been called, the reserves and they had to just leave their cars on the side of the road and walk or run over to the military base to begin their deployment,” Mark said.

They tried to go home but found themselves stuck.

“Our original flight had already been cancelled,” he said. “We tried to look at alternative options but those were also cancelled.”

 They said, despite the chaos, they stayed calm.

“It wasn’t fearful, it wasn’t dramatic, immediately the Israeli military had a professional response,” Mark said.

Away from danger

The Severts said their tour guide, Steven Rona led them to secure places.

“When we went to the garden tomb… it was remarkably empty,” Mark said. “We had heard that, a week earlier, that people were lined up for quite some time just to get a peak.”

He said the places they traveled to were in the central and northern parts of the country, away from a lot of rocketing.

“There is one station here in Israel that broadcasts in English,” Mark said. “They kept us informed every time that we got to the hotel.”

He said they stayed away from the conflict.

“We didn’t get to go to Bethlehem, for example, because that’s so close to the Gaza strip,” Mark said.

He said the only way to get back to the U.S. was to cross the border into Jordan.

“We did go through in two hours and 16 minutes,” Mark said. “We had heard that the group that had gone through the day before, it was more than five hours.”

The Severts and two other Utah couples now wait for the flight out of Amman,

Jordan Tuesday morning. From there, they’ll fly to Europe, then the U.S.

“We’re not the traveling types so we went outside of our comfort zone,” he said. “We’ll be glad to get back.”

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Utahns on a tour of the Holy Land talk about witnessing the war break out