Monday, May 25, 2015

Pantufla Pillowpharm at the Artemis Film Festival

 Pantufla Pillowpharm is a proud sponsor of the 2015 Artemis Women in Action Film Festival. The Pharm provided BOLSAS as the Celebrity and Judges Swag Bag for the inaugural event. Niel and I also donated our time on the final day. We screened some pretty amazing films and made new friends. We wish all involved continued success and look forward to future events.  

Our name on the marquee.

Stunt actress and author Angela Meryl (pictured left). She was the stunt double for Vivica Fox in the Kill Bill series. She recently released her book "STUNTS: The How To Handbook"

Melanie Wise (pictured left) - Founder of the AWIAFF and actor.

Actor Kristanna Loken and her date Antonio Villaraigosa.

And then these goofballs on the red carpet. Thanks to Sean Marlon Newcombe (pictured left), Co-Founder of AWIAFF, for the opportunity to be a part of this great event. Yes, the product placement was intentional.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Niel and Sandra's Excellent Adventure - Week 2 in Israel

Week 2
Sights around Tel Aviv.
Starting our second week in Israel, we've done a lot yet, not having done too much at the same's weird like that. Time travels differently in Israel.
At this point, we've connected with the first in a series of holidays. We have a few days off until the next holiday, so let's explore!  
Our concierge was explaining that in Israel, healthier fare is more available and less expensive. He said most fast food is expensive in Israel. It's true. The cost of a "Value" meal is $11.00. The cost of a Shwarma with all the pickled/brined veggies you can eat and a drink is about $6 with tip. If the Shwarma place is really good and you want to return, tip them nicely. They'll remember you and you'll swear your shwarma is getting heavier every time you order one. I'm pretty sure the last one I ate from my fave place (you'll see it soon) was 2 pounds.
 For any warm blooded American, no visit to a foreign country is complete until you've graced their McDonalds. There aren't very many Golden Arches of Americanism in Israel, but they are the largest fast food chain in Israel.

Some restaurants are Kosher and will not serve dairy or be open on Shabbat/Jewish festivals. Others such as this one in Tel Aviv has everything for everyone...except Pork.

Checking out the menu here. We've got three "classic" combos: The New York, The Brazil, and I can't remember the third. 

We opted for the Big America...MEGA SIZE cuz America, that's why!...with some Hebrew underneath.

Throughout my worldly travels, I've always taken a picture of the trash receptacles at McD's. They used to say "Thank You" in the host language, but I'm guessing by the picture further explanation was needed. Nice pants, dude.
Enjoying a leisurely digestive walk along the beach we stumbled upon this building. If you had to guess, what would this building be? We were guessing it was the police station and/or jail. The answer to this question later.
Strolling along the Shlomo Lahat Promenade. Although you won't see pictures of us at the beach (we didn't want to leave a camera or phone unattended while we swam), rest assured, we swam in the ocean almost daily. The Mediterranean water was so wonderful and warm, you couldn't help but relieve yourself...more than once!, which is why I'm thinking the water is so salty. Sandra's travel tip: Use the beach showers immediately, shower back at the hotel and for the love of Pete, don't swallow the water, if you can help it. Get the "collective" "salt" off yourself ;P
While spending our nightly ritual of coffee and checking emails on the hotel's patio computer, we were greeted by this lervly local slug.

The good news is that our hotel was awesome (Central Hotel on Ben Yehuda street - free plug) in that it not only had cable, but it had FoxSports, so I was able to watch my beloved Doyers (AKA Los Angeles Dodgers) in the Post Season games. It took me much longer to get over the jetlag because I kept waking up at 2am local Israel time so I could watch the games live.

It was worth it to see Andre Ethier. Sweet 16.

Summer Boyfriend.

Let's Go Doyers, Let's Go!



Typical Wilson... 

The apartments along the main drag tend to be above commercial businesses. Pay attention to the patios. They're balconies that have been enclosed to create an additional room. Some apartments use windows while others enclose with shutters.
Our hotel windows had the sliding glass on the inside and the wooden shutters on the outside. If we wanted sunlight, we would open the outside shutters, but if we don't close the sliding glass window, then all sorts of bugs feel entitled to come into the room. I don't understand why the folks don't switch it around, but we figured out to just run the A.C. if we wanted air and sun. Done and done.
So this is the route from our hotel to the Kabbalah center. This is Brogashov Street. It's very hipster and edgy. Reminded me a lot of Echo Park and Silver Lake. Head East (towards Jerusalem) until we reach the clothing store with the giant Audrey Hepburn cut-out in the window, we make a left onto Zafat street.

On holidays and Shabbat, cars are parked on the sidewalk.

A fixer-upper Niel and I are considering in Tel Aviv.

Here is another love-nest we're considering. Just one block away from Dizengoff Square.

The tall commercial/residential building was another landmark we used to get to the Kabbalah center. The first floor has a dry cleaner, printing services, and even a gas station. 

We observed a lot of construction in Tel Aviv, especially residential buildings. It appears that Tel Aviv is going through gentrification. This is meant to accommodate all the Jewish people that are being called to Aliyah.  

The old and the new.
Many two/three stories apartments are being rebuilt as skyscraping communities. They're home apartments that you buy, like in New York. They have all the modern conveniences that Westernized immigrants can enjoy upon they're decision to move to Israel. Niel and I checked out some of the prices...Oy!
JERUSALEM - The first time.
 In the Universe, there exists the Law and Energy that is Cause and Effect. Nothing happens in our life that isn't triggered somehow by our own influence. Being armed with this knowledge, we were met with Forces that made our attempts to visit the Old City of Jerusalem, especially the Western Wall, very difficult.

Arriving at the Jerusalem bus terminal, we are greeted with our first siting of a Kosher McD's. No milkshakes or cheeseburgers at this location. They're distinguishable from non-Kosher McD's by putting the Golden Arches in a Blue Square (see pic of McD's in Tel Aviv).  Jerusalem is a very orthodox city.
Outside the Jerusalem Transit station waiting for our tour bus.
Here are some male Israeli soldiers waiting for their bus.

There was this gorgeous female soldier that was directing traffic across the street. Clearly I wasn't the only one intrigued by her beauty. I tried to get a picture to show you can be a women in the military and still retain your beauty, but alas, this bus pulled up right as I was to snap her photo. The Universe at work. I guess you'll have to see for yourself. I'm sure these fellers weren't ready to leave quite yet.
Whenever I'm in a large, foreign city, I always take the Red Double decker Hop on Hop off bus. I've never had trouble with them, but then again I've never traveled to a country that was experiencing hostility.

Of course Jerusalem is very modern and up to date in many things outside of the walled Old City. We start with a tour of the West side of Jerusalem. 

Gorgeous parks.

Modern Art.

You can always tell the really old buildings from the new. The old buildings have chipped stones.

Here are newer apartments that are designed to keep the "ancient" look on the outside, while having the modern comforts on the inside.

Yay! We're almost at the Old City.


I was really impressed with the modern "ancient" look of architecture. Stone and Plexiglas.

The Old City is one of the most visited cities in the world. There was a lot of traffic as pilgrims and natives tried to navigate amongst each other.

This is northern entrance to the Old City. It's called the Damascus Gate in English, but in Hebrew it's Sha'ar Schem.

This gate is located in the Muslim quarter of the Old City. When you walk in, you go through the "Shuk", the market place. We weren't prepared for this and walking through the Shuk is like shopping in Tijuana. Vendors can be very aggressive and don't take no for an answer, especially if you look like a Westerner. Don't be afraid to state a strong no and walk away.

Zedekiah's Cave is the cave where the Bible says that King Zedekiah (a Judean King) hid while escaping King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia (now modern day Iraq).

The Freemasons of Israel hold annual ceremonies in the cave. The cave is significant to them as legend has it the second Holy Temple, built during King Solomon's Day came from these stones (AKA Solomon's quarry).

The Church of All Nations, AKA the Church or Basilica of the Agony (Roman Catholic church in the foreground) and the Church of Mary Magdalene (Russian Orthodox church in the background)located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

The tear drop shaped church is the Dominus Flevit. It translates to "The Lord Wept". This is supposed to be the spot where Jesus cried and foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. It's the halfway point in a hike from the top of the Mount of Olives down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We're going to do that walk someday soon.

Parts of ancient Jerusalem where contained within the Walls of the Old City and other sections are outside. On this trip, we were outside.


City of David archeological dig.



Al-Aqsa Mosque.


Leaving the Old City for a moment to head to Mt. Scopus at the University. It is a hilltop view point that looks across the Kidron Valley towards the once erected Holy Temple.


Here we are at Mount Scopus. This was the only time we were able to get off the tour bus, so this was the closest we got to the Old City, which was actually quite far.

Niel and the Kidron Valley (panoramic).



As it turns out, Mt. Scopus is significant because of it's location. It offers an uninterrupted view of the spot where the Holy Temple was (now Dome of the Rock - gold domed building).

Kidron Valley below, Old City straight ahead, Mount of Olives to the left.


I love irony and this picture is no exception. This building is the Dome of the Rock. Anytime a Jewish person wishes to see where the Holy Temple was before it was destroyed, they only need to look at this Muslim mosque that was built in it's place.

In my humble opinion, the current Old City is more a result of the Crusades. More Christian and Muslim presence that Jewish.

Just to show how busy Israel is during the Holy Days, if you look towards the bottom of the picture, you can see all the tour buses parked along the Old City walls.

Gorgeous humidity clouds.

Taking a picture of the Valley, I caught a bird in flight (top of the picture).

These are the gates that lead to the King Solomon's stables. I was more fascinated by the fact that the shrubs grow through the carved rocks that form the wall. Trees also grow out of rock walls. AMAZING!
In previous blogs, I mentioned that the
Holy Days are a mash up of Dr. David Bowman/James Bond. Flying to Israel was like traveling on the Discovery One to Jupiter. Rosh Hashanah is the EVA pod that takes us to the Jupiter Monolith.
Yom Kippur IS the Jupiter Monolith....(wooosh, mind BLOWN).
Yom Kippur takes us back to the seed level, or molecular level. We travel back in time (individually and as a community) to correct mistakes, cure ourselves of  "future ailments" (in the present moment to our "past" embryonic state), and get a chance to start over again. This time we're armed with more knowledge. "I wish I knew then what I know now" doesn't have to be true anymore. This is what is happening on the spiritual level.
As for the consciousness behind the holiday, I'll let the Rav Berg explain with excerpts from his book "Days of Power".

"...The Zohar explains that man has two bodies: One that is spiritual and connected to the Tree of Life, and another than is physical and connected to the illusion of limitation, restriction, and disease. During sleep, the soul is released from the restriction of physical desire, and in this state of freedom, it can recharge and refresh itself with energy of the 99% realm. Sleep therefore liberates both the soul and the body. At the time the world was created, all the tools man required to win the battle against the negative forces were created as well. The reason man has not won this battle lies in the fact that he is unaware of these tools and has yet to make use of them."
"Sawing (nesirah) is a term used to describe this spiritual experience in physical terms, the soul leaving the body"...[On Yom Kippur], "Through Sawing, we are able to detach ourselves from our bodies, for both the body and its sin are connected to each other by desire to receive for the self alone"..."According to Kabbalistic teaching, when "Satan" stands before the Supernal Court and enumerates a person's sins, he looks down and sees that person's body cast away without life, for its soul and inner quality have left it during the process of Sawing. But if this is true, what is the point of judging a dead man? The reason is that once this viewing takes place, Satan withdraws, disregards the man, and moves on to the next case." 
..."So why come to the war room (aka synagogue) to pray or listen to the Shofar? We have heard that the Shofar stuns Satan and blurs his senses. But how does it do so?"..."The answer is that the Shofar confuses Satan not by hitting him, but by Sawing off our physical body so that Satan is fooled into thinking that the body is no more than a corpse, the affairs of which are no longer worthy of discussion in the Upper Courts." - Rav P.S. Berg Days of Power pages 102 - 105.
This stuff is pretty deep. This is the opportunity before we're "reborn" at Sukkot to work out the Big Picture plan for the next 12 month. This is why Yom Kippur is considered the most important (thus Holy) day of the Cosmic year.  
Another great explanation from Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi stated in his book "Kabbalah and Exodus" is that this holiday allows such a shift in the cosmos that the celestial realms can bring down blessings onto Earth through Souls (that's us on Yom Kippur) that are willing to ascend up out of the earthly limitations and glimpse the Upper Worlds, if only for one day.

Prayers and Meditations to prepare our Souls for further elevation into the celestial realms.

Our leader, Karen Berg.

Karen is imparting wisdom on the consciousness we should have during the holiday as well as how to best utilize this cosmic connection.

Bringing out the Torah scrolls helps us to receive the Light and Energy it emits.

Because women are spiritually more elevated than men, women do not touch the Torah scroll. The Energy of the Torah is Female, so women gain nothing from touching it, but men absolutely need this Light, so women give up front place seating so the men can have easier, more direct access to the Torah.

Michael Berg singing a prayer while the Torah is being passed around.

Another great teacher, Michael Moskowitz, to lead us in consciousness throughout. Like our tour guide through this cosmic time travel journey.

On the physical level, we fast from sundown to sundown (no food or water). we don't bathe, have "relations" or wear leather. We are one with the Angels on this day. The only meal we need is provided to us by The Light via the Torah.
Another great example of this from Z'ev Ben Shimon Halevi's "Kabbalah and Exodus"..."Kabbalah does not train its practitioners to leave this earth before their time. It takes the individual up to a level in order that they might become a channel for the higher worlds to flow through and down in an act of unification. In this way, the lowest levels of Existence may be permeated with a consciousness of soul, spirit and Divinity."

We are served three spiritual "meals" or courses throughout Yom Kippur. These three courses consist of Torah and intense meditation towards laying out the year ahead.

During the High Holy Days and major Jewish holidays, all the Torah scrolls are brought out and blessed. This allows the parchment to absorb the "Or Makif", or Surrounding Light that stays with it all year long.

There was a time when people threw rocks at Karen Berg for daring to open the teachings of Kabbalah to all people, especially women and children.

She is a highly elevated Soul, a teacher with a direct line to Wisdom, and very approachable. She always says to us, "Come say Hi. I don't bite".

Wrapping up the "First Meal" of Yom Kippur.

It's amazing to be in Israel during the High Holy Days. Each holiday has it's own energy that is amazing, but Yom Kippur took me by surprise. Rather than being a solemn day of fasting and regret, it's a day of celebration at the opportunity to begin anew with a clean slate.

The entire country of Israel shuts down for Yom Kippur. Absolutely no cars driving on the streets, except for emergency vehicles, of course. 80% of television stations are off the air for the entire 24 hours, so what's left for a person to do???...

Go Out and CELEBRATE!!! Ride your bikes in the middle of the street. WALK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET. Sit on the sidewalk or bus stop with your friends. Yom Kippur serves a dual purpose in that it forces everyone to come outside and engage with the community. It felt like a giant block party.
Next morning, time for "Second Meal", or the morning Torah portion. Initially, we were going to connect at the Kabbalah Center in Tel Aviv, but I guess being the trend-setters that Niel and I are, they decided to make it an international event and invite the global community. This took our event from a cozy 200 people to about 1,000, meaning a bigger venue. Here I am with Kabbalah student from Los Angeles, Julia Leeson and my lovely Angel that The Light brought to me from the Kabbalah study group in the Philippines, Sarah Edlynn Frondoso-Ng. Sarah and I met and bonded at Kaparot. Now we're on our way to the Port of Tel Aviv, Hangar 11 for the rest of our spiritual meals.

The first set of prayers act as an "elevator" for the soul, raising it to the level on the cosmic plane where it can receive our "second meal".

During this cosmic time, we are also given access to the storage house of Heaven, called "Binah" or "Wisdom" in Hebrew.

In this storage house called Binah (think of it as a celestial Costco), our Perfected Selves exist. The perfected part of ourselves that has anything and everything we could need or want.

Our mission in these 24 hours is to: elevate to Binah; connect with our Perfected Selves and go over the game plan for the incoming year; select all the tools necessary to get the job done; submit our intentions (or as I call it, "spiritual paperwork") to The Light. Once The Light has received our submission for the incoming year, much like Santa Claus, It starts bundling our "gifts" and getting them ready for delivery to us. How it gets delivered to us is a whole other holiday :)

Singing brings Unity. One Soul

Torah Scroll Crowns.

Michael Berg informing us that we have the merit of a B'rit Milah, or a circumcision.

It is said that the Cleansing Energy you receive from attending a B'rit is the equivalent of taking 42 "showers" in the spiritual realm.

Michael meditates for the Soul of the baby boy. The empty seat next to him is for Elijah who's presence ensures the baby's healing and confirms that this commandment has been followed by the family. Elijah is connected to Messiah. When you invite Elijah, you invite Messiah energy.

This is the first time I've witnessed this, but the Mother walks in with the baby on a pillow. She hands the baby to the women of the community. They pass the baby to each other until it reaches the Father, who is waiting with the Mohel (the man trained to perform circumcision).

Each women that has the merit to hold the baby prays a meditation and imparts Healing to the baby for a fast recovery.

Now the men of the community pass the baby to each other.

The baby is now in his father's arms and ready for the B'rit. Michael is tapping into some serious cosmic energy for the baby.

Huzzah! Mazel Tov! The baby has participated in his first Mitzvah ("commandment" in Hebrew). The baby is given a few drops of wine to ease the pain. It definitely worked as the baby quieted after 5 minutes of crying.
This is the end of the "second meal".
The break between second and third meal was about 3 or 4 hours. Nothing is open and walking back to the hotel would take too long, so many of us just stayed in the hangar and took a nap on the folding chairs, the stage, the floor, or any place we could.
Since we've started participating in Yom Kippur, this was the first time I didn't feel the hunger. I actually felt "satisfied" and had no hunger pains. It was hard though, since it was hot and humid so as long as you're not exerting yourself. After waking from my nap, I could feel that my Soul was slowly returning from the celestial realms.
I volunteered to bring out the snacks for the end of the holiday. Smelling these wonderful treats (plums, bananas, marble cake, water) made it all the more exciting to finally eat, but there was never a desire to pinch a piece of cake before it's time.
It's now sundown and time for "third meal", or as I call it, "Closing Ceremonies". This is the high point of the connection. We've done everything we can within ourselves and with the assistance of The Light to prepare for the incoming year. We thank the Creator for giving us a way to "regenerate" ourselves on an annual basis. The Creator knows we're flawed, but LOVES US REGARDLESS.
 There are 100 Shofar blowings, but the very last one, the 101th blast is the most significant. 101 is the numerical value of Archangel Michael ("Resembles GOD in Hebrew). This blast ensures we are under Michael's protection. It's also the last blast to the Ego and Satan.
The power of the final blast can be best summed up with the following phrase from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, "Baseball Bugs"
" me (Soul) paste this pathetic palooka (Ego and Satan) with a powerful, paralyzing, poifect, pachydoimus percussion pitch (101 Shofar blast)".

Huzzah! Mazel Tov! The Creator has seen our desire to bring Messiah.

Kiddush. This is the wine blessing said at the end of every meal of Shabbat and any Kabbalistic holiday. We are no longer separated by men and women. We come together as ONE SOUL to bring the Light of Messiah to Earth.
Now let's EAT!!!!!!!