ZIM's S/S Shalom

Towards the end of the 1950s, the vision of the then government-controlled ZIM Lines was to open a new era in transatlantic voyages from Haifa to New York. Accordingly, ZIM placed an order for a brand new ship for a transatlantic service, a scaled-down version of the famous S/S France, with Chantiers de l'Atlantique, France. As is described below, unfortunately it was a vision gone awry.

The ship was a source of much national enthusiasm and pride. She was hailed appropriately as the flagship of the Israeli merchant marine. The name of the ship was chosen by a special committee headed by Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the President of Israel at that time. The committee opted for 'Shalom' (peace). The Israeli government paid a fortune, at that time, to build the ship – about 20 million dollars.

A stamp – the featured here stamp – was issued in 1963 to honor the new "ship of the future". The words that accompanied the issuance of the stamp were as follows: "The S/S Shalom is a luxury liner carrying 1,100 passengers and a crew of 450. It will provide a regular service between Israel and the United States via Europe, along the smoothest and swiftest route. The S.S. Shalom has ten decks with deluxe suites of the utmost elegance, luxurious public rooms and decorative dining halls, a library, a theater, a synagogue, enclosed promenades for all-weather relaxation, swimming pools, sport facilities, children’s play-rooms, a winter garden and many other inducements to gracious sailing. The decoration of the ship by internationally renowned artists from Israel and abroad provides an exciting background to a perfect journey."

Shalom was floated out of dry-dock in Nov. 1962, She arrived in Haifa for the first time on March 3, 1964. The brand-new Shalom began her career with a series of short cruises out of Haifa, before embarking on her fully booked first crossing to New York on 17 April 1964.

The pride of the Israeli fleet, the ship was stunning when she went into service, supporting a truly modern exterior and award-winning interiors designed in a bright, contemporary style, complete with modern furniture and the finest in artworks by noted international and Israeli artists.

A controversy that would erupt into a government crisis followed Zim Lines' order to have two kitchens fitted while still under construction, to facilitate both kosher and non-kosher guests – a decision made to appeal to a wider clientele. ZIM was forced to operate the ship with only one kitchen (the kosher one, of course).

Unfortunately, by the time she entered service the transatlantic liner trade was already in decline, with more passengers crossing the Atlantic by air than by sea since 1959. It became clear quite quickly that the ship is a "white elephant". Less than a year after entering into service, ZIM decided to abandon the transatlantic service and to operate Shalom in cruises out of New York to the Caribeans (the rabbinate, by the way, accommodated the change by agreeing to let no kosher food be served on these cruises).

On 26 November 1964, while 50 miles outbound from New York, bound for the Caribbean in thick fog, Shalom collided with the Norwegian tanker Stolt Dagali. Shalom's bow cut the Stolt Dagali in half, killing nineteen of the tanker's forty-four crew. An inquiry concluded that both ships had been at fault. The accident was just one in a series of operational failures which tarnished the ship’s reputation.

Shalom stayed in ZIM service until November 1967, when she was sold to German Atlantic Line. She was the second to the last passenger ship to be sold (only to be outlived by Zim’s very last passenger ship MS Moledet that was sold in 1970). Subsequently, she served in several lines and eventually sank outside Cape St. Francis, South Africa, on 26 July 2001, while en route to India to be scrapped.

The stamp was issued in 1963, desig: C. Menusy & Ch. Ornan.