Utah tourists began tour of Israel, now trying to leave
Oct 12, 2023, 8:33 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah based-tour group was in Israel for a few days when the war broke out. Now, they’re trying to get home while the country is in conflict.
They traveled with the guided tour group called Israel Revealed, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City and Jerusalem. The owner of that company, Daniel Rona, said Thursday the group was most recently in Jerusalem.
“There are about 36 people, quite usual,” Rona said. “They would visit Egypt and Jordan first and then the altercation that happened Saturday, obviously the Sabbath, and as it turns out, they had no way of going back, they had arrived in Israel.”
He said they found themselves inside of a country in conflict just three days into their tour.
“There was quite a scramble out to get out at the Ben Gurion Airport which was virtually shut down because the major U.S. airlines had stopped flying,” Rona said.
Rona said the group is mostly made up of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said many of them are from Utah. He was born in Israel and is a church convert. He said he started his own guided tours 50 years ago to allow people of faith to visit the Holy Land.
“People don’t go there for a vacation, they go there for an experience,” he said.
Rona said after the war was announced, they took tourists to places that were safe and secure, like the Sea of Galilee and the Western Wall.
“Some heard some sirens because … we will over warn in Israel, but no one had any encounter with missiles or rockets coming,” he said.
He said, as a native, he and his son, Steven, who is this group’s tour guide are used to and well-equipped for rocketing and conflict. He said it’s not uncommon in southern Israel.
“I’ve gone through a number of altercations,” Rona said. “We’re aware, we’re Israelis, we’ve all been in the military, I’ve got local people who are there all the time, we’re tuned into the police force and to the military alerts.”
Rona said his office staff in Jerusalem reached out to their contacts in neighboring countries to make new travel arrangements for the tour group.
“We have beautiful partners in Egypt and in Jordan, we helped them make arrangements to cross the border to Jordan and 14 left two days ago,” Ron said.
He said the other 20 are set to fly out of Amman, Jordan Friday morning.
The U.S. Department of State announced they will fly American citizens out of Israel on chartered flights starting Friday, Oct. 13.