Pay Dirt

Published February 16, 2007, issue of February 16, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

For years, American Jews who wanted to follow the tradition of burying their loved ones with earth from Jerusalem had to make due with a lesser alternative: sand. But beginning this week, real Israeli soil — approved by an Orthodox rabbi — will be for sale in the United States, thanks to the ingenuity of a 25-year-old Fordham University law student.

Steven Friedman, founder of — where two handfuls of dirt will cost you $20 — figured out how to get by the United States Department of Agriculture’s stringent standards, designed to keep unseemly organisms from entering the country. Using a “secret” cleansing process that, Friedman acknowledges, isn’t too hard to figure out (if you consult with enough scientists), the budding entrepreneur won approval to begin importing the prized dirt.

This is the real stuff, he insists, “it’s not sand, it’s not rocks.”

According to Friedman, who is promising to donate 15% of all profits to Israeli charities, his product is fecund enough for tree planting. In fact, he says, there are innumerable “creative” uses for soil from Israel.

“When you go to a grave, sprinkle some on top,” he explained. “Then again, you could sprinkle it on the foundation of your new house if you want good luck.”

Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.