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
In the 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.
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.
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.
The primary purpose was to bring American Jews back to their ancient homeland
- Zim took delivery of the SS JERUSALEM 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
The last of the Company’s passenger vessels, THEODOR HERZL, completed her final voyage for Zim on November, 27th 1969.