Understanding grows when people meet face-to-face

Can a chance encounter lead to greater mutual understanding?

It did for David Shlachter ’03, whose role in bringing together business partners divided by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is chronicled in a video now featured at The Huffington Post.

In 2008, Shlachter was surfing off the coast of Tel Aviv—the Marin County native was working on an alternative energy project in the Middle East for his firm, Better Place—and found himself sharing the waves with Shlomy Azolay, a leather craftsman who designs sandals for L.A.-based company Apolis.

Shlachter soon learned that Azolay’s business partner lives in Hebron, the West Bank’s largest city, and that the two had never met. For five years their interactions had been limited to Skype.

Shlachter, who studied Economics at CMC and went on to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was stunned. What if they had a chance to meet? He wondered. What impact would that have on them and their business?

Despite travel restrictions between Israel and Palestine, Shlachter’s wife Orlee was able to arrange a one-day visa for Azolay thanks to her own firm’s involvement in a cross-border environmental project.

The meeting between the two partners in Hebron was moving and joyful, Shlachter explains in the video. It served as a powerful lesson in how “with every transaction, with every interaction, we get to know each other a little more, we get to trust each other a little more….[T]here’s really no telling how far that can go.”