(CNN Student News) -- August 30, 2007
Katrina: Two Years Later - Travel to New Orleans on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Debate Over Cremation - Learn about a debate taking place in Israel over the issue of burials.
Honoring A Hero - Find out what famous activist is being honored with a statue in London.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: We're happy to have you with us as we kick off this Thursday edition of CNN Student News. I'm Carl Azuz. A ceremony in New Orleans: The Crescent City remembers the victims of Hurricane Katrina two years after the deadly storm struck the Gulf Coast region. A debate in Israel: Age-old traditions are clashing with modern ideas in the Middle Eastern nation, as leaders argue over the issue of burials. And a celebration in London: A statue of Nelson Mandela is unveiled in the British capital, honoring the civil rights activist for his lifelong work.
AZUZ: First up, America marks the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, what officials call the worst natural disaster in the country's history. Katrina decimated cities and forced more than a quarter million people from their homes when it struck the Gulf Coast. But two years later, President Bush was speaking about hope. He said the hurricane broke hearts, but it didn't break the spirit of Gulf Coast residents. Michelle Wright has more on the anniversary of this devastating storm.
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MICHELLE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a sunrise service on Mississippi's gulf shores.
MINISTER: Though we were fearful that we were alone, those from the outside and those next door to us came to us. Lean on me, they said.
WRIGHT: In New Orleans, they gathered to remember the day the levees broke and changed everything:
RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: We ring the bells for a city that is in recovery, and is struggling.
WRIGHT: It's now been two years since Hurricane Katrina pounded the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi, battering homes and overwhelming lives. Many residents say they're frustrated by what hasn't happened since then.
ANDREW MERCEDEL, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: It still, it seems like a nightmare. Two years later people are really a lot worse off than they were before.
WRIGHT: But President Bush, who visited the region on Wednesday and said he saw signs of rebirth, was optimistic.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Of the $114 billion spent so far, in resources allocated, about 80 percent of the funds have been dispersed or are available.
WRIGHT: Even so the president admitted, there are many obstacles to overcome. For CNN Student News, I'm Michelle Wright.
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GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: See if you can I.D. Me! I'm a Middle Eastern nation that borders the Mediterranean Sea. I have a population of just under six and a half million people. My capital is Jerusalem. I'm Israel! And I was established as a Jewish state after World War II.
AZUZ: During World War II, roughly six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in what's known as the Holocaust. So in 1948, the United Nations established Israel as a Jewish homeland. Now the country might be less than 60 years old, but Jewish culture dates back thousands of years. And when traditions have been around that long, it can be hard to mix them with modern problems and solutions. As Atika Shubert explains, that debate's going on in Israel right now over the issues of death and burial.
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ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN REPORTER: Alon Nativ owns the only funeral home in Israel to offer cremation. This is what remains. It was burned down days after a local newspaper publicized the location of the crematorium in an anonymous suburb. Police say it was arson. No suspects have been arrested, but Nativ has his suspicions.
ALON NATIV, CREMATORIUM OWNER: They are terrorists or maybe just fanatics who want to establish a theocratic instead of a democratic state in Israel.
SHUBERT: Orthodox Jews say cremation is against religious law; only burial is acceptable. They have even invoked the image of mass crematoriums used in the Holocaust to dissuade the public. But Nativ estimates that up to 20 percent of Israelis, Jewish or otherwise, are choosing cremation.
NATIV: Who are they to judge? I am saying people who want to choose cremation should have the right to do so. We are just providing the service to those who want it.
SHUBERT: This is the latest flashpoint that illustrates the growing divide between secular and religious Israelis. The vast majority still choose burial, but a growing number now also choose cremation. One reason: environmental concern for the amount of space that burial takes up in this small country. Religious lawmakers have responded by promoting a bill that would ban cremation altogether.
NISSIM ZEEVI, LAWMAKER: "Burning the body of a Jew is desecrating the honor of that person. Desecration of the dead," says lawmaker Nissim Zeevi of the religious Shas party. "This legislation says that a Jew that wants to cremate his body in this way has no place in the land of Israel."
SHUBERT: Other politicians vehemently oppose the bill. Yossi Beilin, a Labor MP, says he wants to be cremated.
YOSSI BELLIN, LAWMAKER: If I have to choose between a grave and a park for my grandchildren, I prefer a park. My message to these people is that we live in the 21st century. It is a democracy. And whoever wants to end his life this way or another is allowed to do it.
SHUBERT: In Israel, cremation is literally a burning issue, and one that divides a nation, even in death. Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.
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AZUZ: If you want to have your students pinpoint Israel's location, our downloadable maps can get you started. They'll help you track down the Middle Eastern nation, but labeling the maps, the tricky part, that's up to you. Just head on over to CNNStudentNews.com and scroll down to the Maps section to check out this free resource.
Word to the Wise
RAMSAY: A Word to the Wise...
apartheid (noun) an official policy of racial segregation that used to be practiced in South Africa.
AZUZ: Millions of people fought against the racial injustice of apartheid. There was one man became the symbol of that fight. Nelson Mandela helped lead the African National Congress' opposition to segregation. When apartheid was finally abolished, he won the Nobel Peace Prize and became South Africa's first black president. The impact of his work was felt around the world. And now, as Alphonso Van Marsh tells us, Mandela is standing taller than ever in London.
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ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN REPORTER: Nelson Mandela, who doesn't move as quickly as he used to, turned up in person for Britain's tribute to him cast in bronze. But it wasn't the nine-foot statue in the heart of London, it was the man himself that the crowds came to see. The frail, 89-year-old former South African president who sacrificed 27 years in prison to help bring democracy to his country, in the flesh.
NELSON MANDELA, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: Although this statue is of one man, it should, in actual fact, symbolize all of those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country.
VAN MARSH: This was vintage Mandela: engaged. The crowd, thrilled that his likeness joins that of Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln, who also have statues nearby, recognizing him as one of the great leaders of his age. Less than 30 years ago, when anti-apartheid demonstrators gathered in central London, Britain under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher branded Mandela a terrorist. On Wednesday, a different prime minister sang a different tune in Mandela's praise.
GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: May Nelson Mandela's story and may his statue summon us and future generations to stand with him and seek what is best in our common humanity. President Mandela, you will be here with us always.
VAN MARSH: Unveiled before a crowd of thousands, this statue of Nelson Mandela will rest here in Parliament Square, just a stone's throw away from the houses of parliament, the symbol of the very British institutions that once ruled much of Africa.
WOMAN ON STREET: It brought tears to my eyes to be honest.
WOMAN ON STREET: It's a long time coming, and I think they've picked the right spot to erect it as well.
MANDELA: When Oliver Tambo and I visited Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square in 1962, we half-joked that we hoped that one day a statue of a black person would be erected here.
VAN MARSH: Well, that day is here. Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, London.
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AZUZ: And that ends our day here at CNN Student News. We'll see you again tomorrow. Thanks for watching, everyone. I'm Carl Azuz. E-mail to a friend