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Dr. Shai Har-El, Founder & President
Middle East Peace Network

Shai Har-El, Middle East Peace Network

Dr. Shai Har-El
Founder & President
Middle East Peace Network

Dr. Shai Har-El is a businessman, educator, scholar, writer, rabbi, and poet, and. He spent his formative childhood and young adulthood in Israel, served in the Israeli army, both in active duty (1964-66) and army service (1969-71), and participated in the Six Day War (1967) and the Yom Kippur War (1973).  

He founded the Middle East Peace Network (MEPN) in Chicago in 1990, shortly after the first Gulf War, as a catalyst for action in the battle for peace in the Middle East. Run by a dedicated team of Arab and Jewish Americans, MEPN was active until 1996.

Video: Dr. Shai Har-El introduces MEPN

Committed to building bridges of understanding and reconciliation across the Arab-Israeli and Jewish-Muslim conflict divides, and moving the long-stalled peace process forward, Dr. Har-El reestablished MEPN in 2011. He announced its renewed mission to create—through alternative avenues, such as citizen diplomatic initiatives, transnational mechanisms, and back-channels—a sustainable “ecology of peace,” a warm climate that fosters conciliatory interactions, open communications, and genuine opportunities for peace.

We can no longer afford to wait for states and governments to achieve a lasting settlement of their conflicts on their own. Responsibility lies equally with private citizens, who together are the beneficiaries of peace and the victims of its absence, to participate in peacebuilding and peacemaking. Responsibility lies especially with those who live at peace to contribute to other societies that desperately need it” – Dr. Shai Har-El

Together, we can give birth to a new and inspiring Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East that doesn’t have too many stop signs and that has both the map and the compass to generate the long-sought conflict transformation in the Middle East and restore hope for peace in the regionDr. Shai Har-El

Academic Experience

Dr. Shai Har-El earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, where he gained his initial academic experience as a Research Fellow at the Shiloah Institute (precursor of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies), in charge of the Palestinian desk and a contributor to its Middle East Record (e.g., “The Palestinian Organizations” in Volume 5, 1977).  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where he received extensive interdisciplinary Middle Eastern studies. You are invited to watch a video produced by the university with the title “Alumni Voices: A Path Less Ordinary with Shai Har-El.”

He is the author of Struggle for Domination in the Middle East: The Ottoman-Mamluk War, 1485-1491 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), Where Islam and Judaism Join Together: A Perspective on Reconciliation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and In Search of Israeli–Palestinian Peace: An Urgent Call for a New Approach to Middle East Peace (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). He has published many papers and given lectures on Jewish-Muslim relations and current Middle East affairs.

Business Experience

Dr. Har-El has been a successful financial professional since 1981. He has gained recognition as founder and President/CEO of Har-El Financial Group, a full-service financial consulting firm that is based in Northbrook, Illinois (visit www.harelfinancial.com). He is a recipient of many distinguished service awards by his parent company, AXA-Equitable, a global player in the financial services industry. He is an inductee into the company’s Hall of Fame and a recent recipient of the Golden Year Award.

He believes that inner personal transformation and outer societal transformation are mutually reinforcing processes. Inspired by this doctrine, he founded and led the Humanus Institute, a Chicago-based leadership development and personal growth training school that delivered from 1998 to 2001 a wholly encompassing educational program for the general public. This not-for-profit institution encouraged graduates to make a difference in the world while pursuing a meaningful and quality life for themselves.


Dr. Har-El was ordained as a rabbi in 2012. He gives workshops and writes on a variety of religious themes, particularly on the interface between Jewish spirituality and personal growth. His forthcoming book Discover the Jewel of Wisdom: Eight Paths to Powerful, is a “living laboratory” report of his own journey.

He is a poet. The bi-lingual (English and Hebrew) edition of his poetry book, Riding the Waves of Bliss: Selected Poems from the Seasons of Life, is forthcoming.

He is a resident of Highland Park, Illinois, a husband, a father to three children, and a grandfather to eleven grandchildren, living in Israel, New Jersey, and Illinois.

History and Mission of MEPN

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