Aside from corona and politics

Sunrise in the Negev (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sunrise in the Negev
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Almost everything conceivable has been said and written about the coronavirus and the formation of the new government – as to when the first will finally disappear from our lives, and the latter will come into being, so I shall write about three topics that occupied me in the last week, which have nothing whatsoever to do with either the coronavirus or the government.
The first concerns the discovery of a new plant in the Negev Highlands, not previously known in Israel – the Cistanche fissa.  This is a parasitic plant (it lives at the expense of other plants)  found in Turkemenistan, the Transcaucasus, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Jordan. It was found in Israel over the last two years by several botanists in four different locations, and joins two other species of the genus: the magnificent yellow Cistanche tubulosa, which can be found to the north of the Dead Sea, and the colorful (predominantly purple) Cistanche vilacea (previously mistakenly identified as Cistanche salsa), which can be found around Nitzana and on the road that runs along the Egyptian border.
Because of the movement and travel limitations of the present times, I have not actually seen this plant, which is currently still in bloom.  I was introduced to it by Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir – the Chief Scientist of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden – whom I assist in the upkeep of the Flora of Israel Online website, which was in the past the official website of the late Prof. Avinoam Danin.  Last week Fragman-Sapir uploaded information and photographs of this plant to the website, and asked me to go over the Hebrew and English texts attached. I warmly recommend to whoever delights in the flora of Israel, to take a look at the various plants of the Cistanche genus (known in English as Broomrapes) that appear on the website. 
One of the tasks I perform on this website is to upload new photographs (several hundreds every year – occasionally one or two that I took), which I find especially soothing on these nerve-racking days.
Incidentally, in Mongolia Broomrapes are considered to be an aphrodisiac.
The second issue that kept me occupied last week is a chapter I am preparing for a book titled:  Comparative Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Omnibus Legislation, edited by Dr. Ittai Bar Siman-Tov from Bar Ilan University. The book will contain the papers submitted at an international workshop on omnibus legislation that took place in January 2019 at the law faculty of Bar Ilan University.  My paper was about the Economic Arrangements Law in Israel – which is an omnibudget law of huge dimensions, containing a vast number of different subjects that are frequently unrelated to each other, and is therefore very difficult for MKs to keep track of in the enactment process – and the efforts over the years to deal with its worst abuses; similar laws in a host of countries around the globe, and how they try and contend with the same problems that we contend with in Israel, and what we can learn from their experience.
One of the issues that fascinates me in this field is the ‘single subject rule’, which can be found in the constitutions of 43 of the 50 US States. The single subject rule makes omnibus legislation impossible, since it proscribes the inclusion of more than a single subject in any one law, with very few named exceptions. The rule was introduced into North America by the British colonial authorities as of the beginning of the18th century, and was later introduced into the rest of the British Empire around the world.  It was even introduced into Mandatory Palestine in 1932, but was unfortunately not adopted into the Israeli law book after independence.
One of the questions I explored in my paper was whether the single subject rule exists in the constitutions of other than those of 43 U.S. States.  I discovered it in Greece, Tonga (an island state in the Pacific Ocean...) and Columbia.  As I was putting the final touches on my submission for the book, I tried to check whether there were any other Latin American countries that have the rule.  I discovered that it exists in Ecuador, and in a slightly different form in Chile.
I have been corresponding with Prof. Eduardo Alemán, from the University of Houston in Texas,  who specializes in Chilean constitutional law. What he wrote about the situation in Chile is fascinating.  In Chile an article was added to the Chilean constitution in 1970 – before Augusto Pinochet assumed power – to contend with riders that were habitually added by Congressmen to bills brought before Congress, which were totally unrelated to the bills’ “original or fundamental ideas”.  In other words, the problem addressed was not bills submitted as omnibus legislation in the first place, but the inclination to turn ordinary bills into omnibus bills by means of riders. (that, incidentally, was the problem faced by the British Empire in its colonies in the 18th century...).
The deadline for submitting my paper is in two days time – on Wednesday. I shall miss all the running-around associated with its preparation.
The third topic I should like to relate to is connected to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor – the Appassionata.  Exactly a week ago I went to Misgav Ladach hospital in Jerusalem for an MRI.  Anyone who has experienced an MRI knows that before one is put into the machine, with ear plugs and earphones to help one survive the strange noises produced by it, one is asked what music one would like to listen to during the procedure.  I asked for Beethoven. The piece chosen for me was the Appassionata, which immediately raised pleasant memories.
Exactly 60 years ago, when I was 16 years old and studying at the Arts Education School at Tring Park, Hertfordshire, in UK (at the time I wanted to be a ballerina...), I won the first prize in a piano competition held at the school.  The piece I played in the competition was the Appassionata.  My piano teacher was an Indian lady, whose interpretation of Beethoven was rather unconventional, to say the least, and under her tuition I turned into the best pianist among the dancers, and the best dancer among the musicians, which ended with my becoming a political scientist...
When I returned home from my excursion to Misgav Ladach (every departure from home, these days, turns into an excursion) I called up my brother in Washington D.C. My sister-in-law answered the phone and informed me that my brother was playing the piano.  “What is he playing?” I asked.  “Beethoven’s Appassionata,” she replied.  “What a coincidence” I said, and told her of my MRI music.  “Who was the pianist?” she asked.  “I haven’t got the faintest idea, but he certainly battled bravely against the peculiar sounds produced by the MRI machine, thanks to the stormier, more passionate movements in the sonata.”
Well, these were my means of escapism in the last week.