Grumpy Old Man: A date to remember

Twenty years on, we have to ask ourselves how much and how well we’ve internalized what happened on November 4, 1995.

Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On November 4, 1995, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 4,835.57, where it had closed the day before, a Friday. The NASDAQ was 1,065.66, and the Standard & Poor 500 index was 590.57. An ounce of gold was going for $383.87. In Israel, a US dollar cost you NIS 3.03, a British pound NIS 4.78, and a deutsche mark NIS 2.13.
In industrialized nations throughout the world, economic growth was down to just over 3 percent. In the US, where the annual inflation rate was about 2.8%, the median price for a new home was $137,000. A gallon of gasoline cost about $1.25, and a loaf of bread could be had for less than 90 cents.
The world population on this date was about 5,740,660,000.
No. 1 at the box office was Get Shorty.
The No. 1 pop song was Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” On The New York Times’s best-seller list, Michael Crichton’s The Lost World was No. 1 for fiction, and Colin L. Powell’s autobiography My American Journey No. 1 for nonfiction.
ON NOVEMBER 4, 1995, The Washington Post ran a feature on Henry Woods, of Little Rock, Arkansas. Woods was a stalwart of the state Democratic Party.
But he was also a federal judge involved in a real-estate case that came to be known as “Whitewater.” Two of the central figures were Bill and Hillary Clinton, who happened to be his personal friends, and Woods was under serious pressure to recuse himself over this conflict of interest.
On the same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had “quietly abandoned a prediction that people alive in 1914 would live to see Christ’s kingdom on earth – a major doctrine that lent urgency to the sect’s door-to-door warnings that a bloody end of the world is imminent....
A former leader of the Witnesses calls it a ‘monumental change’ and an ex-Witness in Milwaukee who runs a national phone hot line says calls are coming in from members distressed by the move.”
Back on the East Coast, The Free Lance- Star newspaper of Fredericksburg, Virginia, reported that farmer Dwayne Palermo was “still beefed about last week’s handling of a chemical spill on Interstate 95 in Stafford County.” Palermo was “angry that authorities never notified him of the potential danger to the 125 sheep and cattle that graze on the farm and drink the water flowing from Potomac Creek.”
At the beginning of November 1995, France was in the midst of a string of paralyzing labor strikes. The strikes, most notably affecting communications infrastructure and public transportation, were in answer to the economic policies of the conservative Juppé government, which had made deep cuts in social welfare spending to bring the budget deficit in line with Maastricht standards.
At the same time, Vietnam, the Philippines and China were in talks over the Spratly Islands, a hotly contested archipelago in the South China Sea whose approximately 4 square kilometers of land spread out over some 425,000 of water. The most serious points of contention over the Spratlys pertained to freedom of navigation and air corridors.
It’s a name readers will see a lot of today, and for the same reason.
In early November 1995, Argentinean president Carlos Menem, settling into his second term, was under steady criticism over local economic fallout from the Mexican peso crisis. He was also being lambasted for allegations of corruption.
In addition, the country’s Jewish community was still seething over signs he was doing his best to stymie investigations into the Israeli Embassy and AMIA Jewish community center bombing, which most likely had been ordered by Iran.
Right here, political tensions were high. Land of Israel adherents were up in arms over the prospect of having to give up territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it was lost on no one that Palestinian terror attacks, particularly suicide bombings, had spiked dramatically after the signing of the Oslo Accords a little over two years earlier. To counter the rising and increasingly ugly opposition to the peace process, Oslo supporters planned a rally in Tel Aviv for the evening of November 4.
OTHER IMPORTANT things happened on November 4, though not necessarily in 1995.
In 1842, future US president Abraham Lincoln wed Mary Todd, who was seated beside him almost 23 years later when he was gunned down at a Washington theater.
In 1879, the beloved American humorist and folk philosopher Will Rogers was born in what would later become the US state of Oklahoma. Other November 4 birthdays include Peruvian novelist and social activist Ciro Alegría (1909); former American first lady Laura Bush (1946); former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott (1957); American rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and actor Matthew McConaughey (1969); and Portuguese soccer great Luis Figo (1972).
On November 4, 1922, British archeologist Howard Carter and his party found a way into the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. In 1928, Jewish gambler Arnold Rothstein, the man most closely linked to the 1919 World Series rigging scandal, was gunned down in a New York City hotel.
On this date in 1956, Soviet armor began rolling into Hungary and its capital to crush once and for all the popular uprising against Communist rule that had begun on October 23. In 1958, the man born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was crowned John XXIII at the Vatican.
As pope, he would go on to promote an end to the vilification of Jews over their perceived role in the death of Jesus.
On November 4, 1973, the Netherlands declared a “car-free Sunday” in light of shortages brought on by the Arab oil embargo. In 1979, Iranian students loyal to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini rushed the US Embassy in Tehran and began a hostage drama that would last 444 days. In 1980, Ronald Reagan became the first divorced man elected president of the United States. Twenty- eight years later, Barack Obama was elected the first US president of color.
And on this date in 1995, a man who relished his role as prime minister died.
Five days before his death, in a mostly forgotten interview, the man said the following: “A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be ‘He did very little harm.’ And that’s not easy.
Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me.”
That man was the actor Paul Eddington, who portrayed cabinet minister and, later, prime minister Jim Hacker on a wildly popular British TV series. He was dead of cancer at age 68.
OF COURSE, another man, a real prime minister, died the very same day. He died right here, and violently. Yet judging by the way many of us in this country talk and act 20 years on, you’d never know it. In fact, many among us would probably prefer to never again be reminded of the way that pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv ended on the night of November 4, 1995.
But I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: The rally ended with three shots, a prime minister named Yitzhak Rabin lying dead, and a population that, 20 years on, seems not to have internalized the enormity of what the assassination meant – if it internalized anything about it at all.
So no, I won’t apologize if I’ve ruined anyone’s stroll down memory lane. The Rabin assassination is something we should remember every day, if only to remind ourselves about how far we have yet to come as a decent, law-abiding and peace-seeking society. ■ 20 years on, we have to ask ourselves how much and how well we’ve internalized what happened on November 4, 1995