Despite decades of diplomatic initiatives, the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians rages on.  Numerous organizations, both public and private, have invested tremendous resources in the search for a solution—yet the conflict seems as intractable as ever.

Clearly, something has been missing from the mix.

While previous efforts have produced a number of positive results, the many nongovernmental organizations, international bodies, and governments working on this conflict have ultimately failed to achieve their most important goals: an end to violence and the realization of a just and durable Palestinian-Israeli peace.

Unless the mistakes of the past are avoided and a new, more effective strategy is pursued, it is predictable that any new initiatives will also fall short.

After careful review of both the shortcomings and the incremental successes of previous diplomatic and civil society initiatives, we are establishing the Middle East Peace Civic Forum and the Middle East Project to vigorously address these issues and to begin the process of creating a future full of opportunity, peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

With a new administration in Washington, DC, a unique window of opportunity exists. 

We invite you to join our efforts as we move fast to make the most of it.


The Middle East Peace Civic Forum Staff and Board of Directors

Matthew Lakenbach
Executive Director

Mr. Lakenbach is committed to peace in the Middle East and to seeing a positive, mutually beneficial outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Lakenbach brings expertise in the Middle East, conflict resolution, bridge-building and government relations. He has worked with a number of organizations active in Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution, serving as Washington, D.C. representative for Jerusalem Peacemakers, an interfaith alliance of community and religious leaders in the Holy Land. He has also served as the Communications Coordinator for the Center for Religious Tolerance, a US-based NGO that is active in projects both in the Middle East and in the United States.

Mr. Lakenbach interned in the office of Senator Joseph Lieberman, and was the Managing Editor for a Middle East newsletter at a prominent public affairs organization active in Middle East issues.  His academic background includes a Master’s Degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C. His thesis, which passed with distinction, explored in depth the missing components of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  Mr. Lakenbach earned his undergraduate degree, in Political Science and Economics, from Washington University in St. Louis.

After graduation, he worked at the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in the communications department.


Tarek Pierre Nahabet
Partnerships Coordinator
Mr. Nahabet is currently a graduate student at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.  He is pursuing a Master's degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution.  As an undergraduate at Boston College's Carroll E. Wallace School of Mangagement, Tarek received his Bachelor's degree in Business with a concentration in Economics.  From 2002-2006 Tarek lived in Cairo, Egypt, where he studied Arabic and worked as an English and Math teacher.  He has also worked for the organization Seeds of Peace as a counselor where he successfully coached and empowered Israeli and Palestinian youths to trust one another and embrace each other as friends.  Tarek's interests in the Middle East and specifically the Israeli/Palestinian conflict originate from his family's connection to the region. Along with his French and Arabic language skills, Tarek adds youth, comittment, and vibrancy to our mission. An emerging young leader, Tarek's vision and dedication to peace in the Middle East will be an integral part of our success.

Harriet Mayor Fulbright
Honorary Chair of the Board
Ms. Fulbright is the President of the Board of The J. William and Harriet Fulbright Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to international education, collaboration and world peace. Ms. Fulbright was appointed Executive Director of President Clinton’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and holds numerous honorary degrees and honors. A veteran in the field of international peace education, Ms. Fulbright brings a wealth of experience and commitment.


Majid Alsayegh
Acting Chairman of the Board
Mr. Alsayegh is founder and principal of Alta Management, LLC, which provides project management and real estate development services to clients in both the public and private sectors. A current major project is the new Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey Arena. Mr. Alsayegh is co-founder and Board Chairman of Intercultural Journeys, an organization that promotes understanding through dialogue and the presentation of world-class performances in music, poetry and other art forms. He is also Vice Chair and Treasurer of the board of trustees of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Mr. Alsayegh is also a breeder of Arabian horses.


Ghassan Manasra
International Board Chairman
A Sufi Sheik and veteran peacebuilder, Mr. Manasra is the founder of the Islamic Cultural Center in Nazareth and Jerusalem. Working for peace and coexistence, Sheik Manasra has initiated several peace and reconciliation projects including training Jewish, Christian and Muslim high school teachers and principles with tools for tolerance. He publishes an Arabic-language newspaper to spread the message of a moderate, tolerant Islam among Muslims in the Holy Land. Mr. Manasra recently completed a teaching engagement as a Fulbright Scholar at Catholic University in Washington, DC.

Christine Warnke
Honorary President of the Board
One of the most respected government affairs professionals in Washington, DC, Ms. Warnke serves as Senior Governmental Affairs Advisor at Hogan & Hartson. Ms. Warnke has led several domestic and international initiatives in the areas of health, human rights, international affairs, and women’s issues. She is also on the Wilson Council at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Ms. Warnke was a Superdelegate of the Democratic Party for the 2008 election. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her charitable work.

Eliyahu McLean
Vice-Chairman of the Board
Widely recognized as a founder and leader of the grassroots interfaith peace movement in Israel, Eliyahu McLean is the West Jerusalem co-founder of Jerusalem Peacemakers. Mr. McLean is the leader of numerous bridge-building projects such as the Abrahamic Reunion, a group of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze religious leaders working to reclaim religion as a source of peace, and the annual Sulha Peace Project, which brings together about 4,000 Israelis, Palestinians and members of the international community for a dialogue and prayer gathering in Israel. Eliyahu was initiated as a ‘Rodef Shalom,’ or ‘Peace Persuer,’ by Reb Zalman Schacter Shalomi.

Dan Reed
Vice-Chairman of the Board
A successful musician and producer, Dan Reed has frequently opened for bands such as The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, and David Bowie. After years in the entertainment industry, in 2005 Dan moved to Jerusalem to dedicate himself full-time to the quest for peace, writing songs such as Jerusalem Sky and performing at a variety of venues to raise money for peace projects. Mr. Reed is a resident of New York City.

Salam (Sam) Rasoul
Vice-Chairman of the Board
As the Democratic nominee in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia in the 2008 election, Mr. Rasoul received the most votes by any Democratic candidate in history in his district. He was also the youngest Congressional candidate in the country in 2008. An up-and-coming Palestinian-American leader, Mr. Rasoul is a highly respected and articulate advocate for peace in the Middle East and a successful business entrepreneur. He serves on the board of The Hope Fund, which provides college scholarships to poor Palestinian refugees.

Albert Fairchild
Secretary of the Board
A four-decade veteran of the Foreign Service, Mr. Fairchild has served his country in the Middle East, Africa, and Washington. Mr. Fairchild received the State Department’s Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards and he was instrumental in designing the State Department’s strategic planning system that involves every U.S. Embassy abroad and the major elements of the Department in Washington. Now retired, he works as a foreign affairs consultant.


Marcia L. Dyson
Ambassador at Large
The Reverend Marcia L. Dyson is a noted civic-social activist.  As an ordained minister and public speaker and writer Dyson has carried out a ministry of healing to wounded women, neglected children and suffering men throughout America and around the globe.  Dyson is a native of Chicago, where she served as the first chief of staff for Operation Push’s International Trade Bureau and became a prominent media and public relations specialist, serving as a vice-president of some of Chicago's leading public relations firms and as the Public Information Officer for the Mayor's Office of Special Events for the City of Chicago. Rev. Dyson is a political strategist, social entrepreneur and an affiliate of the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.


Maria Snyder
Ambassador of Arts
Ms. Snyder is an internationally renowned model, artist, designer and entrepreneur.  She was recently selected to participate in a Paris conference honoring the International Day of Women, for which she was named one of a New Generation of Artists for Peace. While earning her Master’s Degree in Art History, Ms. Snyder was discovered by Yves Saint Laurent, launching her modeling career.  Ms. Snyder has dedicated herself to using art and design as peacebuilding tools, and has created several new brands that sell products conveying messages of love and environmental preservation.  A resident of New York City, Ms. Snyder has unparalleled experience in using creativity, art and design in the service of peace.


Andrea Blanch
Member of the Board
Andrea Blanch, PhD, the President and Director of the Center for Religious Tolerance, a Middle East Project partner organization, has worked for over 30 years as a social change agent. A former state mental health commissioner, she was founding director of the Collaborative on Conflict Management in Mental Health and the National Trauma Consortium. Andy has published widely on women’s mental health, trauma, and social change, consults nationally and internationally, and has done grassroots organizing in the Balkans and the Middle East. She recently served as a Fellow in the Women, Religion and Globalization program at Yale University. Her efforts are focused on building interfaith networks to shape a peaceful and sustainable future, with an emphasis on the role of women. 

 Timothy Cooper
Member of the Board
Mr. Cooper is the Executive Director of Worldrights, a nongovernmental organization founded in 2003 that specializes in human rights in Asia and the United States. Mr. Cooper is experienced in human rights advocacy, international human rights law, and the promotion of pro-democracy causes around the world. He has appeared before numerous international human rights bodies, and his efforts have led to major changes both in the United States and abroad. For example, his organization lobbied successfully for resolutions on behalf of imprisoned Chinese dissidents by the Parliament of Canada, the US House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, and the Taiwan Legislative Yuan. Mr. Cooper has published numerous articles and editorials on international human rights and democracy.


Shahar Eidelman
Member of the Board
Director of Finance at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, one of the leading conflict resolution organizations in Israel, Mr. Eidelman coordinates all financial aspects of the organizations projects and activities. Through his work, he is well connected with all projects of the organization as well as leading peacemakers throughout Israel and Palestine. He holds a BA in economics and a BS in finance from the University of Maryland, from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Eidelman planned and partook in a 3,000-mile bicycle ride from Los Angeles, CA, to Washington, DC, to raise awareness and funding for cancer research through the Sarcoma Foundation of America.


Dr. Hussein Ibish
Member of the Board
Dr. Ibish is a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, which supports a fair and just two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, and the Executive Director of the Hala Salaam Maksoud Foundation for Arab-American Leadership. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Ibish has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is an outspoken advocate for fair treatment of Arab communities both in the United States and abroad.


Yehezkel Landau
Member of the Board
A Faculty Associate in Interfaith Relations at Hartford Seminary, Landau teaches interfaith relations and Jewish-Christian-Muslim reconciliation. During the 1980’s, he directed a prominent religious peace movement in Israel. From 1991 to 2003, he was co-founder and co-director of the Open House Center for Jewish-Arab Coexistence in Ramle, Israel. Yehezkel is a prolific author and lecturer on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations and Middle East peace issues. He co-edited the book Voices from Jerusalem: Jews and Christians Reflect on the Holy Land and authored a U.S. Institute of Peace research report entitled “Healing the Holy Land: Interreligious Peacebuilding in Israel/Palestine.”

Charles Lenchner
Member of the Board
Mr. Lenchner works to help progressive nonprofits harness the internet for social change. He has managed and consulted for organizations in the US and the Middle East in the environmental, human rights, peace and social justice fields. He has also worked on several electoral and issue campaigns. Currently he is employed by the Working Families Party, edits the Peace in the Middle East site at, and conducts outreach for Mr. Lenchner grew up in Israel and lives in Brooklyn.


Allen Nause
Member of the Board
Allen Nause has served for 20 years as Artistic Director of Artists Repertory Theatre, where he has directed many of its most popular productions. Allen was a recipient of the 2003 Governor’s Arts Award. Through his work at Artists Rep, Allen has been a strong advocate for international collaboration. He directed Our Town in Bangalore, India, and led two international tours to Africa and the Near and Middle East. Allen directed at the 1997 International Theater and Dance Festival in Lahore, Pakistan. In 2000, Allen traveled to Vietnam and co-directed a bilingual, bicultural production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the Vietnam/America Theater Exchange. In 2004, that production toured the US as part of the NEA's “Shakespeare in American Communities” program. In May 2007 Allen co-directed All My Sons with the Palestinian National Theater in Jerusalem. As a professional actor, Allen has performed at many of the major theaters in the United States as well as appearing in several feature films.


J.E. Rash (Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid)
Member of the Board
J.E. Rash is an internationally recognized lecturer, writer, and consultant in education, dialogue, NGO development, and conflict resolution. Throughout his work, he seeks to build bridges of understanding among people of diverse backgrounds by emphasizing universal spiritual values, social responsibility and mutual respect. Legacy International, which Rash founded in 1979, has been instrumental in creating domestic and international programs in leadership training, civil society infrastructure development and conflict prevention. Legacy’s annual Global Youth Village has served more than 3,800 participants from over 110 countries, among them Israeli Jews and Palestinians. As an authorized teacher of Five Orders of Sufism, he is also known by his Arabic name, Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid.


Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer
Member of the Board

Rabbi Schnitzer is the spiritual leader of Bethesda Jewish Congregation (BJC).  He has also served congregations in Virginia, Long Island, and Baltimore, mixing both traditional and contemporary forms of worship.  Rabbi Schnitzer holds a Bachelors Degree in Judaic Studies from Baltimore Hebrew University, where he received awards for scholarship and biblical text study and was valedictorian of the class of 1993.  He was ordained in 1997 as Hazzan and Teacher in Israel by the Academy for Jewish Religion, a trans-denominational rabbinic and cantorial seminary in New York City.   Rabbi Schnitzer is a renowned teacher of authentic Jewish Meditation using imagery suggested by passages from the Zohar and Hekhalot literature as well as meditations written by Moses Cordevero and Rab Nachman of Bratslav. As a performer, Rabbi Schnitzer radiates a passion and energy for Jewish music and Jewish people that captivates listeners.  BJC has extensive relationships with area churches and mosques, and community members have shared their authentic Jewish voice with others.  BJC even shares a building with Bradley Hills Presybyterian Church, a relationship that has endured nearly five decades.

Anas (Andy) Shallal
Member of the Board
Mr. Shallal is a highly successful entrepreneur and artist. He is the founder and owner of Busboys and Poets, a chain of restaurants in Washington, DC, and Shirlington, Virginia, that serves as a hub of the artistic, progressive, and peace and justice communities in the nation’s capital. He started the Peace Café, a monthly interfaith gathering that brings together Muslims, Jews and Christians to engage in constructive dialogue and learn about pressing issues. Mr. Shallal has appeared on Larry King Live discussing his vision of the restaurant as a source of healing and peace.


Geoff Shallal
Member of the Board
A graduate of Coastal Carolina University with a degree in Business Management, Mr. Shallal is a veteran of the restaurant industry. He is currently the manager of Busboys and Poets in Shirlington, Virginia. There, he hosts monthly peace cafés, opening up the restaurant to a Jewish-Muslim-Christian interfaith dialogue group. He is married and has two girls, ages 6 and 8.


Jane Swensen
Member of the Board
Ms. Swensen is a professional staffer on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She serves in the offices’ Public Information Office and coordinates all committee and subcommittee hearings. Swensen also communicates witness testimony to Members of Congress. Previously, she worked in the House of Representatives, the White House and at the Danish Embassy. She remains friends with the Danish Ambassador, who she served as an Executive Assistant. Her international experience includes having worked as a volunteer in India with Mother Teresa, teaching English in Japan, and serving as a guest scholar at the University of Bergen, Norway.


Burton Wides
Member of the Board
A dedicated and experienced public servant, Mr. Wides was responsible for Middle East policy while serving as Chief Council for Senators Phil Hart, Ted Kennedy and Paul Sarbanes, and as Senior Counsel to Representative John Conyers. He was also Special Counsel to President Jimmy Carter. In addition to civil rights (he drafted and managed the 1970, ‘75, and ‘82 Voting Rights Acts), campaign reform (he drafted the Campaign Finance Act) and oversight of the Executive (he drafted Watergate Special Prosecutor Archie Cox’s Charter and conducted the first investigation of CIA activities), Wides has worked on numerous national security matters, especially congressional and public oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community and the relationship between the Executive and Judicial Branches.  Mr. Wides currently works in the private sector as an investigator, legislative strategist, media contact and lobbyist.  His recent focus has been on balancing the interests of justice, via prosecutions or civil lawsuits for violations of U.S. and international law, against the interests of national reconciliation via non-prosecutorial “truth commissions.”