Released today, the new Middle East Project film from Apolis tells a story linking Los Angeles to Tel Aviv and across the border to Hebron. When third-generation shoemaker Shlomy Azolay met David Shlachter while surfing in Tel Aviv their conversation revealed something surprising in common: Apolis. Shlachter is a friend of Apolis founders Shea and Raan Parton and was in the busy Israeli city working on an alternative energy project. There, he learned that Azolay makes Apolis’ Co-Op Leather Sandals. A further discovery within the coincidence was that Tel Aviv-based Azolay’s manufacturing partner was West Bank-based footwear producer Mohammad “Hijazi” Altzatari.
Before the making of this film the two had never met, as visits across the border are rarely permitted and the two had been maintaining their cross-border relationship via Skype. The film—made by Shlachter in conjunction with Lonleyleap as part of the Apolis Middle East Expedition—chronicles how that face-to-face meeting was made possible. Apolis also created a Middle East Travel Guide, highlighting travel resources for everything from surfing to where to find pick-up soccer matches and how to visit Gaza and Palestine.
Major news organizations often document the complicated Middle East conflict on dedicated pages and countless news articles chronicle the historic events in the attempt to find peace. Following the news and clashes in the Middle East can be confusing and disheartening. But watching this film from Apolis reminds the viewer that behind the tension in the region, talented and hard-working people go on with their lives. Through the Middle East Project alone, eight employees in Tel Aviv and more than 65 in Hebron manufacture the Apolis Co-Op Sandal.
In the case of Azolay, his leather-crafting business had exceeded its production capabilities, leading him to find Altzatari’s facility in Hebron and a helpful partnership. Witnessing the progression from Azolay and Altzatari’s online-only relationship to their real life meeting reveals their admiration for each other and the strength of their collaboration; personally and professionally. In a part of the world where the conflict may seem impossible to tackle, this story about the design and making of hand-crafted leather sandals offers a glimmer of hope.
The Co-Op Leather Sandal is available at Apolis for $98, and the Global Citizen Cross Border T-Shirt is available for $48. For more information on the trip and behind-the-scenes footage, check out Apolis’ Middle East Journal.
Images courtesy of Apolis