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When you're the only one bidding, there's no need to break the bank. And that's exactly the lesson learned by one Yoel Friedman, the only bidder for a 450-square-meter plot of land in Kfar Chabad. The Israel Lands Administration (ILA) set a minimum price tag of NIS 207,941. Friedman bid NIS 207,951, and won.

And Friedman wasn't alone in being alone. Madeleine and Rahamim Gindi also found that they were the only ones bidding for a piece of land in Kfar Chabad, so they added NIS 25 onto the asking price, and - presto! The plot was theirs.

Shneor and Dina Reichman were the only ones bidding for another plot at Kfar Chabad, priced at NIS 203,000. They also won the auction.

Two months ago the ILA announced an auction over landfor 171 residential units in the village, but added that the tender was open only to members of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement.

Most of the units were to be single-story homes, with minimum prices set at between NIS 177,000 and NIS 208,000 for the land, which is relatively cheap for the area. The other units were to be one-dunam (1/4-acre) plots for multi-story homes, with prices from NIS 420,000 to NIS 505,000.

Apparently, all those interested in buying the plots got together for the auction, held last week, and submitted only one bid per plot. In most cases, the "single bidder" suggested a payment that was only a few hundred shekels higher than the minimum asking price.

Chairman of the village committee Yumi Lifshitz rejected any assertion that the auction had in effect been prearranged to avoid any haggling over the plots. He stressed that the tenders were open to all who were interested - as long as they were Chabad members.

A spokesman for the ILA said: "The tender was open to thousands of Chabad members. We know that the tender was conducted according to regulations. The administration has no control over the numbers of individuals bidding for each tender."