First there was the baby-bouncing professor. Now there’s the pacifier-hanging mayor.

As if we needed any further proof that Israel is an unusually child-centered society, on August 24 Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat came to the southern neighborhood of Gonenim to inaugurate the city’s first “pacifier tree.”

The festively decorated tree growing just outside a well-baby clinic is meant as a positive aid for weaning children from their pacifiers. As Barkat looked on, about 60 tots were encouraged by their parents to hang their soothers on beaded strings attached to the tree’s branches, and celebrate their “graduation” from babyhood.

Yehudit Segev, a nurse at the clinic, joined Barkat in reading the gathered kids a story called “Naama and the Pacifier” by children’s author Shlomo Abas.

The initiative came from neighborhood parents and the timing was deliberately set for a week before the opening of the new school year. A poster publicizing the event invited parents of children ages two to five to join in.

City Councilman Hanan Rubin remarked, “Although I am a father of children with pacifiers, I admit that I was surprised when residents first came to me with the idea. The beauty of the project is that it was instigated by the people and received the full support of the city. It incorporates an element of community and the environment, and I hope that in this spirit of cooperation the project will continue.”