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The Bottom Line A Deal to Make the Rebbe Proud

It is hard to stay apathetic about the tender results for purchasing properties in Kfar Chabad, which were published last week. For each of the 171 tenders that the ILA published, only one bid was submitted.

It is hard to stay apathetic about the tender results for purchasing properties in Kfar Chabad, which were published last week.

For each of the 171 tenders that the Israel Lands Administration (ILA) published, only one bid was submitted. In almost all of them, the bid was pretty close to the minimum price required by the ILA, and all the bids were won without problems, objections, or superfluous questions.

Take Joel Friedman, for example. Friedman was the only person to submit a bid on a 450 square meter lot for building a house. The minimum price was NIS 207,940. Friedman threw in an extra NIS 10 and won. Shneor and Dina Reichman were also the only ones to submit a bid on another lot in the village. Likewise, they won after bidding the minimum NIS 202,741.

Any budding statistician would say, of course, that the odds that each lot would receive only one bid, each by a different person, around the minimum price are equivalent to winning the grand lottery prize. And yet, no one at ILA seemed to get excited by the outcome. "The tender was open to thousands of Chabad followers from Israel and the world," claimed ILA representatives. "As far as we know, the process of the tender was in order and took place according to rules of proper administration."

Proper administration? An open tender? Well, let's see: first, it should be clear that no competition for the lots took place when each lot received only one bid. Second, Kfar Chabad, for anybody not in the know, is located in the center of the country at the heart of a very desirable area. Results from other ILA tenders in these areas indicate that bids tend to be tens of percentage points and sometimes hundreds of percentage points higher than the minimum price. The results, thus, oblige the ILA to investigate the tender's handling, to ask pertinent questions, and to demand explanations. Instead, nothing has been done.

But wait, there's more. Sources in government offices claimed this week that the ILA had anticipated that bidders in the Kfar Chabad tenders would not offer the minimum price as public tenders should. This is the reason, the sources claimed, that they raised the minimum price in comparison to what is customary from 51 percent of the value assessed by the government assessor to 71 percent. "In this way," said the sources, "ILA representatives hoped to earn at least a little bit from the land."

Of course, the ILA denies the allegations. "Normal tenders are targeted for a broader population. The number of competitors in the current tender was limited to begin with, and therefore we had to raise the minimum price," said an ILA spokeswoman.

Even if these claims are false, the conduct of the ILA and its head, Yaacov Efrati, is bewildering and infuriating. The exceptional results should at the least require a review of the tender if not its immediate cancellation. In this case, Chabadniks were endowed with the wisdom of their late Rebbe, while the ILA was left with the wisdom of Chelm.