Rooftop restaurant delicious symbol of Gaza resilience

Updated 24 April 2015
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Rooftop restaurant delicious symbol of Gaza resilience

GAZA CITY: When nightfall descends upon Gaza, the glittering lights of the Level Up restaurant seem to be the only bright spot in this darkened city.
In a territory plagued by chronic power outages, poverty and shortages of construction materials, the restaurant defies all the rules: It’s well lit, thanks to a humming generator. The tables are crowded and hard to come by, and it is one of the few places in Gaza to rebound and relax.
“People want to believe that they should live their lives,” said Basil Eleiwa, the manager of the restaurant. “People seem to like this place.”
The story of Level Up is in many ways the story of Gaza. It’s located in a high-rise complex that symbolized the short-lived hopes for prosperity in the crowded seaside territory two decades ago. It has been impacted by the rule of the Hamas militant group, experienced the horrors of war, yet somehow manages to plod along in difficult circumstances.
The restaurant opened just days before last year’s war with Israel broke out on July 8. At first, it suffered only minor damage. But about three weeks into the fighting, owner Mohammed Abu Mathkour says he received a phone call from the Israeli Army.
An Israeli intelligence officer told him that Hamas maintained a communications antenna on the roof of the building and that he had several hours to take it down.
“I told them I cannot take it down without permission from the Hamas Interior Ministry,” he explained. Knowing what lay ahead, he rushed home to avoid the likely Israeli attack. The next day, Israeli tank shells hit the upper floors of the building. Level Up’s kitchen was severely damaged.
The Israeli officer called him back, and Abu Mathkour says they had the same argument about the antenna. The 56-year-old, who worked as a construction worker in Israel as a youth, vowed to rebuild the damage.
“You destroy. I rebuild,” he says he told the officer on the phone. “That’s what I was born to do.”
In the following days, the building absorbed two more rounds of shelling, Abu Mathkour said. During a temporary cease-fire, he visited the site to inspect the damage. The restaurant was flooded and covered in dust. Chairs and tables were broken, and so was most of the glassware.
When the Israeli officer called again, Abu Mathkour says he told him: “I promise you to open it 10 days after the war stops.”
Owner of one of the largest construction firms in Gaza, he says he began making repairs before the war ended. Whenever there was a lull in fighting, his workers mixed cement in the basement of the building and sent it to the roof in buckets to rebuild the walls. The war ended on Aug. 26, and Level Up reopened on Sept. 10.
These days, reservations must be made well ahead of time to get a table, especially in the evenings. The cafe and restaurant are packed with people, as customers dine and smoke flavored tobacco from bubbling water pipes.
“The place is new. We see the sea from here and see all Gaza. It’s open, not dark,” said Sami Abu Haloub, a 34-year-old engineer who sat with his friends sipping hot drinks and smoking.


Game of Thrones reaches its end, with one or two shocks left

Updated 20 May 2019
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Game of Thrones reaches its end, with one or two shocks left

  • The last episode of the medieval fantasy based on the novels of George R.R. Martin ran roughly an hour and 20 minutes
  • The series had become the cornerstone of HBO’s primetime offerings, but its final season was also its most divisive

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the final episode of “Game of Thrones.”
After eight seasons and 73 episodes, HBO’s long-running smash series, “Game of Thrones,” wrapped up on Sunday, with one more shocking demise and an unlikely character named as king.
The last episode of the medieval fantasy based on the novels of George R.R. Martin ran roughly an hour and 20 minutes to conclude the storyline of more than a dozen characters and intertwining plots.
The fierce competition for the fictional Iron Throne — the seat for the show’s ruler, made of hundreds of swords — ended with a death and an unexpected choice to rule the fictional kingdom of Westeros.
The series had become the cornerstone of HBO’s primetime offerings, but its final season was also its most divisive, with both fans and critics finding specific plot twists, particularly the handling of one primary character, troubling.
HBO says the record-breaking final season drew 43 million viewers on average for each episode in the United States alone, an increase of 10 million over Season 7 in 2017.
Most notable in fans’ criticism was the malevolent turn by Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, the “Dragon Queen,” who used her dragon to lay waste to the show’s fictional capital after her enemies had surrendered.
The move angered fans, as the episode, titled “The Bells,” now garners the weakest ratings of all episodes in the eight-season run on Rottentomatoes.com, which aggregates critics’ reviews.
Brutal acts by Clarke’s character in previous seasons were similar to those of other leaders, but many viewers saw the decision to kill tens of thousands of innocent people as too drastic, based on her previous actions.
The final episode features her death at the hands of Jon Snow, her lover (and nephew, among numerous incestuous relationships portrayed), played by Kit Harington, who kills her, fearing her tyranny merely mirrors that of predecessors.
Her last living dragon then burns the Iron Throne, melting it down with his fiery breath.
Without a ruler, numerous members of the show’s noble houses eventually make an unexpected choice of king, settling on Brandon Stark, played by Isaac Hempstead Wright.
In the premiere episode in 2011, Brandon was pushed from a high tower, crippling him, but awakening mystical powers that eventually allowed him to see the past and the future.
Some critics viewed the Sunday episode’s choice as odd, since Stark’s abilities implied he foresaw the events, including the deaths of thousands, that would leave him ruler.
“He’s got the whole history of Westeros stockpiled in his head, so how is he going to be able to concentrate on running a kingdom?” wrote Rebecca Patton on Bustle.com.
From its ragged beginnings — its original pilot was never aired, instead undergoing substantial re-shoots and recasting of several characters — the series became a cultural phenomenon.
Its budgets grew, with the last season’s cost running as high as $15 million per episode, Variety says. It also won numerous primetime television Emmy Awards, including three for “Best Drama.”
It became known for unexpected, nerve-wracking moments, including the first season’s death of Eddard Stark, the nobleman played by Sean Bean, highlighted in a marketing campaign, and Season 3’s “Red Wedding,” a massacre in fictional wars that author Martin based on medieval Scottish history.
HBO, owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia, is already planning a prequel series, set thousands of years earlier, while creators Dan Weiss and David Benioff are scheduled to make the next series of “Star Wars” films.