Pay Dirt

Published February 16, 2007, issue of February 16, 2007.
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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.”

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