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Dallas-area megachurch hosts family members of Israeli hostages: ‘It is a battle between good and evil’

A Dallas-area Baptist megachurch recently hosted the family members of two people who are still hostages of Hamas in Gaza, as a show of support by the Christian community for Israel and its citizens amid today’s antisemitism.

Dalia Cusnir and Liel Slifer joined pastor Jeremiah Johnston at Prestonwood Baptist Church’s Jan. 28 services to share their stories and remind others of the ongoing plight of their beloved relatives. 

That weekend was Holocaust Remembrance Day — an annual observance held on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

Speaking to Fox News Digital on Thursday about the event, Jack Graham, senior pastor, reiterated the importance of standing with Israel. 

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“We were honored at Prestonwood to welcome families impacted by the atrocities committed against Israelis by Hamas terrorists,” said Graham, adding that his congregation was “deeply moved” by Slifer and Cusnir’s stories. 

“Hamas still brutally holds more than 100 people hostage, and it’s imperative that we continue to amplify their stories and call for their immediate release,” he added.

The Christian community, emphasized Graham, must “stand with our Jewish friends and our friends in Israel and demand that the hostages be released now … This is a spiritual battle that affects the entire world, and we will keep fighting this fight until they are all home,” he said. 

Liel Slifer, left, Dalia Cusnir, center, and pastor Jeremiah Johnston speak about the situation in Israel at Prestonwood Baptist Church. Slifer and Cusnir are the relatives of people still being held hostage by Hamas.  (Prestonwood Baptist Church)

Cusnir, of Israel, is the sister-in-law of Eitan Horn and Yair Horn. The brothers were captured at Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7. 

Slifer, of Dallas, is the cousin of Carmel Gat, one of the last remaining female hostages. Gat was kidnapped on Oct. 7 while visiting her parents at Kibbutz Be’eri.

Speaking to the Prestonwood church congregation, Cusnir said she was there to be the voices of her two brothers-in-law — Eitan and Yair, the brothers of her husband Amos. Her husband was invited to Yair’s home on the eve of the attack but decided not to go, she said.

“They just stopped answering us. We had no clue what was going on.” 

“When the terror attack began at 6:30 a.m., I was home,” said Cusnir — and she immediately ran with her children to her family’s safe room. The first thing she did was call Eitan and Yair, who reported that things were OK where they were and that they were in their own safe room.

An hour later, however, the situation was very different. 

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“We were shocked by those horrors we saw,” said Cusnir, as images from the attack began to be broadcast on Israeli television. 

“The last message we got from them was at 7:30 a.m.,” she said. “They just stopped answering us. We had no clue what was going on.” 

At first, Cusnir and her family tried to explain away why the two men had suddenly stopped responding. Perhaps, they thought, their batteries had died, or their cell phones did not get a good signal from the safe room.

Family members and Jack Graham

Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, is shown meeting with the family members of those who are still held hostage in Gaza. Prestonwood Baptist Church has campuses in Plano and Prosper, Texas.  (Prestonwood Baptist)

That night, representatives from the army told them they had been to Yair’s house on the kibbutz, but neither of the men were there. 

Initially, the two brothers were classified as “missing,” as all the bodies on the kibbutz had not been identified yet. 

It was not until Nov. 25, when the first round of hostages began to be released, that Cusnir and her family received word that Eitan and Yair were actually being held hostage in Gaza. 

“We hope and pray that they’re still alive and that we’re going to see them back as soon as possible,” said Cusnir.

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Slifer, who was in Texas during the attack, said it took her a minute to register what was happening as she was sent images and videos from Kibbutz Be’eri. 

Similar to the way Cusnir reacted, Slifer “initially didn’t think anything was wrong,” she said, as her cousins were texting her throughout the attack. 

In addition to Carmel, her brother Alon, her sister-in-law Yarden, and her niece, Geffen, were all visiting Kibbutz Be’eri. 

“And then they went silent,” she said. 

Terrorists had entered their home, she said, and taken her cousins out one by one. 

Gat’s mother, Kinneret, was killed. Slifer herself saw Kinneret’s body in a video posted by the Washington Post.

“We had to call her family in Israel and tell them, ‘Even though we haven’t found her body yet, we think she’s probably been murdered,'” said Slifer, choking back tears. “Her daughter Carmel was taken.” 

“Hamas is an organization of terrorists — they came to us, but they have other targets as well.” 

Alon and Geffen managed to escape from their captors. Yarden was taken hostage, and was released in Nov. 2023, said Slifer. 

“Carmel is still being held hostage in Gaza,” said Slifer. “She’s only six months older than me. We used to have sleepovers with her grandparents in Israel.” 

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When a group of children was released, they reported that Gat was safe and healthy. 

There have been no additional updates on her status. 

Cusnir had a simple message to the Prestonwood Baptist community: Keep talking about what is happening and do not forget.

“This is not only against Israel,” she said. “Hamas is an organization of terrorists — they came to us, but they have other targets as well.” 

two women and a man in a suit on a screen

Pastor Jeremiah Johnston assured both women of his church’s prayers for their families and for Israel. “Prestonwood will always stand with Israel.” (Prestonwood Baptist)

The hostage situation, said Cusnir, is a “humanitarian thing.”

“This is not about a piece of land. This is not about right-wing, left-wing — this is just because they want to destroy the Jewish people, and not only the Jewish people.”

She continued, “We need your help in keeping this message as a humanitarian thing.” 

Slifer offered a similar sentiment.  

“Prestonwood will always stand with Israel.”

“This is not politics; this is not left versus right, Jews versus Christians. This is good and evil,” said Slifer. “It is a battle between good and evil. And we need you all, every single day, to be vocal and supportive.”

“This isn’t just affecting us, this is affecting the world,” said Slifer. 

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Pastor Johnston assured both women that he would be praying for their families and for Israel. 

“Prestonwood will always stand with Israel,” he said.

In Texas, Prestonwood Baptist Church has campuses in both Plano and Prosper. 

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