If it was not the day the Earth stood still, it was close: It was the day Washington was not cynical.
When Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat came together, the banal was suddenly breathtaking, and the ordinary was suddenly historic: one person touching another, one person sitting next to another, one person applauding another; President Clinton introducing Mr. Arafat to his daughter, Chelsea; the President, Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat holding up their "Seeds of Peace" T-shirts, like teen-agers at a rock concert; Mr. Rabin shaking hands with Arab ambassadors.
The jaded were awed. Even for a New Age Presidency, there were a lot of men in the audience crying. George Stephanopoulos, the Clinton aide, and Rahm Emanuel, the White House adviser who had helped arrange the logistics, were crying.
So was the Hollywood contingent -- Ron Silver and Richard Dreyfuss -- along with Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic. "Do you believe this?" Mr. Dreyfuss asked Mr. Wieseltier.
"And you're the guy who saw those aliens land in that movie," Mr. Wieseltier replied, referring to the actor's role in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
To Mr. Arafat, the moment meant "putting an end to [ Palestinians' ] feelings of being wronged." To Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister, it marked "a revolution: yesterday a dream, today a commitment." But it was left to Mr. Rabin, a hero of the 1967 war that brought Israeli occupation to the very territories the Palestinians now hope to reclaim, to say -- indeed to trumpet -- what seemed to be on everyone's mind:
"Enough of blood and tears. Enough!"