Texas church hosts relatives of Israeli hostage victims held by Hamas: 'This is good versus evil'

From left: Liel Slifer, Dalia Cusnir, Jeremiah Johnston speak during a worship service at Prestonwood Baptist Church on January 28, 2024, about the hostages Hamas is refusing to release.
From left: Liel Slifer, Dalia Cusnir, Jeremiah Johnston speak during a worship service at Prestonwood Baptist Church on January 28, 2024, about the hostages Hamas is refusing to release. | YouTube/Prestonwood Baptist Church

Liel Slifer, the cousin of a woman who is among the over 130 victims Hamas is still holding captive, told members of a Texas church that the most recent news she received about her relative is that the terror group is holding her cousin hostage alongside children and that she is doing her best to keep all of their spirits up. 

Last Sunday, Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano hosted Slifer, the cousin of Hamas hostage Carmel Gat, and Dalia Cusnir, the sister-in-law of Eitan and Yair Horn, two brothers who are also being held captive by the terrorist group. The two women joined Pastor Jeremiah Johnston on stage to share their relatives' stories and urge Christians to continue advocating for the hostages. 

According to a statement to The Christian Post, the event took place as part of a delegation of hostage family members who visited Dallas, Austin and San Antonio to advocate for the release of their loved ones. The delegation met with state legislators, businesses and religious communities about the over 130 victims Hamas is still holding captive. 

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"The news cycle moves really fast and, to some, it seems like Oct. 7 happened forever ago, but for us, it's happening every single day. It is in the moment. We still have family that are being held hostage," Slifer told the congregation.

"This is not politics; this is not left versus right, Jews versus Christians," she continued. "This is good versus evil. 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." 

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists launched attacks against Israel, slaughtering at least 1,200 people, a majority of them civilians. The terror group also abducted around 240 individuals, and over 130 men, women and children remain in captivity. 

During her talk at Prestonwood, Slifer recounted several details about her cousin, such as how the pair used to have sleepovers at their grandparents' house.

Gat, an occupational therapist, is 39 years old and six months older than Slifer. 

In November, Hamas released multiple hostages during a temporary ceasefire agreement. While Gat wasn't among the released hostages, several children who were released had told her family that Hamas had held them alongside the middle-aged woman. 

According to the children, Gat performed yoga with them while in captivity to help ease their minds, and she told the children to inform her family that she is "safe, and she is healthy."

"But that is the last we heard from her," Slifer said. "And we don't know if she is still there, if she is alive, if she is healthy, if she is safe. But we pray that God is watching over her and everyone's family."

Gat's cousin reiterated to churchgoers that the issue is not about politics or religion, stressing, "It is a battle between good and evil." 

"And we need you all every day. Be vocal, be supportive. … If you hear somebody talking about Israel, go into that conversation," Slifer said. "If you see somebody post something online, interject in that. We need your support. We need your help because this isn't just affecting us. This is affecting the world."

Cusnir spoke about her husband's brothers taken captive by Hamas on Oct. 7. Eitan had been visiting Yair at his house near the Gaza border when the terror group attacked. 

The sister-in-law of the two brothers recalled how she and her husband called the pair twice on Oct.7, and each time, the men confirmed that they were safe. After a while, however, Eitan and Yair stopped answering, according to Cusnir. 

That same evening, members of the Israel Defense Forces called to inform Cusnir and her husband that Yair's house was empty and that Hamas had taken them hostage. Cusnir and her husband learned that Eitan and Yair were still alive after Hamas released multiple hostages during a temporary ceasefire. 

"They're being held since Oct. 7 in tunnels under the earth with no air or food or medicine," she said. "We know nothing. We hope and pray that they're still alive."

The Oct. 7 attacks prompted the Israeli military to launch an offensive in Gaza seeking to eradicate Hamas, a terror group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, and secure the hostages' release. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has claimed that over 27,000 people have been killed since the war began, a figure that doesn't distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Reports circulated last week that Hamas leaders are considering another ceasefire proposal drafted with the help of intermediaries from the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar that could see the release of more hostages. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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