The 10,000-ton luxury liner “Theodor Herzl, ” largest passenger vessel ever built for the Jewish State and the flagship of the Israel merchant marine, was transferred today to the Zim Navigation Co. of Haifa, her new owners. Under the command of veteran Israeli merchant marine Captain Eliezer Aczel she set out on the first lap of the maiden voyage that will take her to Haifa via London and Marseille.
Within the framework of the reparations pact, she was built and outfitted at Germany’s largest shipyard, the “Deutsche Werft.” When she sailed from Hamburg harbor today she was still under the flag of the Federal Republic. As she left German territorial waters north of Cuxhaven to head into the high seas, director William Scholz of the “Deutsche Werft” handed the sleek and beautifully equipped passenger liner over to Dr, A. A. Blum, chief legal officer of the Israel Purchasing Mission in Germany.
In behalf of the Purchasing Mission, Dr. Blum transferred title to director Zvi Yehieli of Zim- Shoham. He entrusted the ship, with her accommodations for 550 passengers and her crew of 176, to Captain Aczel, a 46-year-old native of Budapest who has been a sailor since 1929. Until the first year of the war he commanded the “HarZion” and then the freighter “Antar” which in 1941 was sunk by an Italian submarine. In 1949 he took over the “Kedmah,” four years later the old “Jerusalem,” with which he pioneered Zim-Shoham’s transatlantic route, and in 1955 the “Israel,” a combined cargo-passenger vessel sailing on the Haifa-New York run.
As his first act, the new master gave the Hebrew command of “lehaniv degel!” The blue-white flag rose on the mast and the strains of “Hatikvah” rang out in the spring sunshine. Then the “Theodor Herzl” set course for London, from where she will put to sea next Tuesday with a full complement of passengers. Some, mainly from Scandinavia, came aboard in Hamburg.
She will be assigned to the regular express run from Haifa to Marseille, via Naples. With her normal speed of more than 18 knots, the route can be covered in three and a half days. After completion of her sister ship, the new “Jerusalem,” she may also be employed for cruises to South America and the Bermudas during the tourist season.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.