ZIM LINE – Israel’s Passenger and Cruise company in the 1950s and 1960s

ZIM LINE – Israel’s Passenger and Cruise company in the 1950s and 1960s


Zim Lines began passenger service connecting Israel with Mediterranean ports began after the State of  Israel was established in 1948 and for 20 years they operated an excellent sea transportation fleet of ships

Zim Lines - S.S. Jerusalem - Leaving New York in the early 1950s for the Mediterranean and Israel.

Zim Lines – S.S. Jerusalem – Leaving New York in the early 1950s for the Mediterranean and Israel.

In ths-l225e early 1950s, Zim became a member of the North Atlantic Passenger Conference and bought Home Lines Argentina; the former Norwegian liner Bergensfjord; for its first transatlantic passenger service in April 1953 and renamed SS JERUSALEM.

Her itinerary:: Haifa, Limassol, Malta, Cannes, Halifax and New York and was replaced by a new liner in 1957 also called the Jerusalem.

M.S. Theodore Herzl

M.S. Theodor Herzl

Between 1954 and 1961 Zim ordered thirty-five new ships built in West Germany as paying for lost property taken from Jews persecuted by the Nazis and the cost of resettlements in Israel.

M.S. Zion (with the M.S. Israel) - Provided first and tourist class liner service between New York and Israel via the Mediterranean.

SS Zion (with the SS Israel) – Provided first and tourist class liner service between New York and Israel via the Mediterranean.

The passenger Liner SS ISRAEL was the first ship to be completed for Zim. She and her sister SS ZION were built in 1955 and 1956.


The two new liners, carrying first and tourist class passengers, maintained a Trans-Atlantic service, sailing from Haifa, Piraeus, Naples, Gibraltar, Funchal to New York.

First Class Menu

First Class Menu

The primary purpose was to bring American Jews back to their ancient homelandCPZim4

  • Zim took delivery of the SS JERUSALEM (2) and her sister the SS THEODOR HERZL in 1957. Both ships were designed for the Mediterranean service, but they differed from their earlier sisters in having a shallower draught and twin screws. From 1965 both ships were used exclusively for cruise duties.


  • During the winter season of 1958-59 Zim Lines entered for the first time the international cruise market from the United States to the Caribbean Islands with three cruises per season.

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  • The one class liner MS MOLELET was launched on February 19, 1961, and was completed later that year. In spite of various engine troubles, the vessel enjoyed lots of popularity amongst her passengers. Zim took her out of service in 1969. She was sold in 1970 having made 225 voyages, to the Greek Epirotiki Line (later to become Royal Olympia Cruises) and renamed Jupiter.


The 1950s and early 1960s saw Zim concentrate on passenger ships, along with a constant expansion of the cargo shipping business.


Cocktail lounge.

Zim continued the Mediterranean, as well as having regular routes to the United States. Some of its ships cruised to the Caribbean during the winter.


1964 saw the completion of the passenger ship SS SHALOM built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire. She was Isreal’s flagship operating from New York to Haifa with year ’round trans-Atlantic service along with cruising during the winter. There were accommodations for 1,012 (148 first class, 864 tourist class) passengers.

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She received a royal welcome in New York and was an immediate success, but that didn’t last. Her arrival as a passenger liner was ten years too late, and like dozens of other ships, from the United States to the Queen Mary the jet had changed people’s travel tasted. Getting there was no longer half the fun because they wanted to do it in hours not days. Sadly, she was sold in 1967 after only three years of service.

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By the late sixties, the line voyage passenger market decreased as air travel took over with the introduction of the Boeing 747. The mounting losses made it impossible for Zim to continue and the company began selling off their passenger ships.

MS Theodore Herzl

MS Theodore Herzl

The last of the Company’s passenger vessels, THEODOR HERZL, completed her final voyage for Zim on November, 27th 1969.

Our thanks to ss Maritime for the images.

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About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…