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.”


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Race, Religion + Social Justice

Yolanda Francisco with restoring ancestral winds speaks about the new helpline aimed at helping nat...

Eric Cabrera

Sexual assault helpline for Native American communities launched in Utah

The helpline is intended as a starting point from which to build trust between the Native communities of Utah and the state.

4 days ago

a sign in spanish lists requirements to vote, latino voters are a target for misinformation...

Associated Press

Latino voters are coveted by both major parties. They also are a target for election misinformation

Given the high stakes of a presidential election year, experts expect a surge of misinformation, targeting Spanish-speaking, Latino voters.

5 days ago

church of jesus christ of latter-day saints construction on temple square illustrates growth of mem...

Becky Bruce

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints reports membership growth

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the growth of the faith in 2023 means there are now more than 17.2 million members.

5 days ago

President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church, records as message to be shown during the Sun...

Devin Oldroyd

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces 15 new temples

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the construction of 15 new temples Sunday.

6 days ago

Latter-day Saint President M. Russell Ballard and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Rome in 2019...

Boyd Matheson

Boyd Matheson: The Apostles — ordinary men, extraordinary calling

Boyd Matheson dives into the role of apostles through the ages, including the current ones in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

6 days ago

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sing hymns as part of worship. The churc...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Church of Jesus Christ to release 12 hymns in new book as it prepares for general conference

The church announced this week it will be releasing 12 hymns next month as it prepares a new churchwide hymnbook.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Live Nation Concerts

Artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

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