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Jewish seamanship and shipping did not exist during the
Ottoman period but this changed after the British occupation
of Eretz Israel. Following the establishment of Mandatory
rule there was a surge of economic initiatives alongside a
steady growth in the population. There was no industry or
agriculture to sustain the needs of residents and British
government authorities and military, thus importation from
Europe via sea increased. Many foreign vessels docked in
the Haifa, Tel-Aviv and Jaffa ports, from which goods were
then shipped to their final destinations on trucks or trains.
The economic potential of the shipping realm, with its
abundance of capital and manpower, did not go unnoticed
by businessmen in the Jewish community (the Yishuv) and
also attracted the attention of Yishuv leaders. During the
20-year period between the end of WWI and the outbreak
of WWII a number of shipping lines owned by Jews operated
in Eretz Israel, sailing in the eastern Mediterranean and the
Black Sea. Two schools were opened at that time to provide
professional seamanship training and maritime youth
organizations operated on the Yarkon River and at the Port
of Haifa. All of these laid the foundations for the establishment
of the State of Israel's merchant marine and navy.
Hehalutz, 1919, Jaffa
In 1919, the Asdot Vesapanut Hofit shipping company
acquired a small steamship, called Hehalutz (The Pioneer)
in order to transport goods along the eastern shores of the
Mediterranean. One of the sailors aboard the ship was
Jeremiah Helpern, the son of Michael Helpern, the first
proponent of the Hashomer defense organization. During
the First Aliyah wave of immigrants to Eretz Israel in the late
19th century, Michael Helpern also proposed a plan to
establish a Jewish fleet that would bring Jewish immigrants
from the Diaspora to Eretz Israel. Hehalutz, the first Jewishowned
ship in Eretz Israel, sank off the coast in February
In 1927, a motorized sail vessel called Gozal (Fledgling)
was brought into service by its owner, the Nesher cement
company, to carry cement. In 1928, Captain Zeev Hayam
commanded its voyages along the eastern Mediterranean.
After retiring his command Zeev Hayam continued to
promote seamanship and shipping for many years.
Sarah A, 1936, Haifa
Numerous maritime youth organizations, such as Hapoel,
Maccabi, Elizur etc. began conducting seamanship training
for young people in the early 1920's. Prominent among
them was the Zevulun Seafaring Society, which prepared
its members to sail on merchant marine vessels. Jeremiah
Helpern, who was among the founders of the Beitar youth
movement's maritime department, understood early on the
immense significance of training youths to be seamen. At
his initiative, a nautical school for Jewish students was
established in Civitavecchia, Italy in 1934. Graduates were
granted certificates allowing them to immigrate to Eretz
Israel. Students visited Haifa Port aboard the school's vessel

Sarah A in 1936. This event increased Yishuv youths' interest
in maritime training. The Jewish Agency established a
nautical school as part of the Technion's vocational school
in Haifa. In time, graduates of both schools came to serve
in senior positions in the Israeli navy and merchant marine.
Har Zion, 1936, Tel-Aviv
The Palestine Maritime Lloyd company operated two
vessels which carried both passengers and freight. They
sailed on the Haifa-Istanbul-Costanza route, exporting citrus
fruit and importing, among other things, wood and cattle.
One of them, the Har Zion, was commanded by veteran
seaman Captain Erich Hirschfeld, who was forced to
escape Nazi Germany. As one of the professional seamen
who immigrated to Eretz Israel from various different countries
during the 1930's, he was among those who laid the
professional foundation for a merchant marine in Israel.
Hevel Yami Le'Yisrael, an organization that promoted
maritime education among the youths of Eretz Israel, was
founded on board the Har Zion in June of 1937. Among
the organization's founders was engineer Emanuel Tuvim,
also one of the founders of Zevulun, who worked actively
to further shipping in Eretz Israel.
From 1934-1936, an elegant white ship sailed the Haifa-
Trieste route. The Tel-Aviv, owned by Arnold Bernstein, a
Jewish shipping magnate from Hamburg, served as both
a passenger and freight vessel. Among the crew were Jews
who used this as a way to escape Nazi Germany.
The handful of people and vessels described above are
but a small portion of the intense activity that contributed
to the development of Jewish shipping in Eretz Israel during
the British Mandate period.

Dr. Daniela Ran
Historian, specializing in the history of Jewish and Israeli Shipping

With thanks to Captain Hillel Yarkoni for his contribution.

Issue: April 2012
Design: Ronen Goldberg, Tuvia Kurtz
Stamp Size: 30 mm x 40 mm
Plate no: 872, 873, 874 (no phosphor bar)
Sheet of 12 stamps
Tabs: 4
Printers: Joh. Enschede, The Netherlands
Method of printing: Offset

The Israel Philatelic Service - Tel: 972-76-8873933
12 Sderot Yerushalayim, Tel-Aviv-Yafo 68021 * e-mail:

Thanks to: Juan Franco Crespo, Spain


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