In 2000 Michael Lourie set up some mobile homes before building permanent structures in Pnei Kedem, without permission from Israeli authorities.
Jewish Australian Michael Lourie spent years building his dream home set amongst sprawling mountains, with views stretching all the way to the sparkling Dead Sea.
He describes it as an eco-villa constructed using raw materials like hemp. His home and his community are a source of pride and joy.
But Mr Lourie’s paradise has been built in the West Bank — the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel — and under international law, the home is illegal.
Mr Lourie is what’s commonly known as a settler.
Settlements are overwhelmingly Jewish communities built in Palestinian territories captured by Israel in 1967.
Mr Lourie’s settlement is called Pnei Kedem, and not only does he live there, but he also founded it — the only Australian to do so.
Back in 2000, he was looking for land in the West Bank when he came across the block, near another settlement, with a view of the Dead Sea and “fell in love with it straight away”.
Along with some other families, Mr Lourie set up some mobile homes before building permanent structures, without permission from Israeli authorities.
For years Mr Lourie applied for retroactive approval for some of the buildings on his land, and this year Pnei Kedem was formally recognised as a settlement by Israel.
It includes plans for 120 homes, and Mr Lourie says it currently houses about 70 families, including a senior cabinet minister in Israel’s ultra-nationalist government.
Photo: Michael Lourie (Haidarr Jones/ABC)