LONDON (JTA) — Workers and shoppers at a family-owned kosher supermarket in one of London’s most Jewish neighborhoods fended off a knife-wielding attacker who was demanding to know whether its owners supported “Israel or Palestine” on Monday.
Police arrested a 34-year-old man on suspicion of “racially-aggravated affray” after the man allegedly returned to the supermarket following a first confrontation with staff there.
The attack at Kay’s Local in the northwest London neighborhood of Golders Green took place on Monday afternoon. There were no injuries reported, despite a physical struggle outside the store.
“This guy came into the shop and started asking one of the cashiers: ‘Who do you support, is it Israel or Palestine,’” an employee called Moishe told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The 18-year-old declined to give his last name, citing security concerns.
“The cashier said: ‘We’re neutral, you can support who you want, I can support who I want,’” he added. “Eventually, he left the shop, but came back a minute later.”
The 34-year-old man, who was bearded and hooded, was ushered outside of the Hamilton Road store “where he started speaking about it again,” Moishe recounted.
The attacker then grabbed the neck of 18-year-old Yosef Chaim, who then tried to tackle the man. “I learned Krav Maga at school and other martial arts,” Yosef told the Jewish Chronicle.
Moishe said the assailant was clutching a blue knife behind his back. “He tried stabbing him, attacking him. [Yosef] took a trolley and pushed him over, and then he went into the shop again to try and protect himself.”
Those in the shop grabbed items including a broomstick and a children’s scooter as they tried to fight off the attacker. Yosef’s father, shopkeeper Eyvatar Reitman, 48, told the Jewish Chronicle, “I could see the hate in his eyes. He looked like he came in looking for a fight.”
The attacker was tackled by volunteers from Shomrim, a volunteer Jewish neighborhood watch group in London, and officers from the Metropolitan Police. Videos posted on social media showed him struggling with officers.
The incident comes as local Jews are on edge amid a spike in antisemitic incidents and sustained displays of anti-Israel sentiment in London since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Data from the Community Security Trust, a Jewish security group, indicated that antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom rose to record levels since Oct. 7, with 2,093 incidents reported in the 68 days after the attack. In one notable incident last week that police are investigating as a hate crime, three Jews in London said they had been attacked by a large group because they were speaking Hebrew.
Nobody was injured in the fighting with the attacker, who crossed the road after being fought off. “He then went into his house and changed his clothes,” Moishe said. “He left his weapon in there.”
Kay’s Local is going to “try and get security,” Moishe said, adding, “London’s not safe.”
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that officers were called to respond “to reports of a man with a knife in Hamilton Road” at 1:27 p.m. Just over 10 minutes later, it said, it took a man into custody. “A 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and racially-aggravated affray,” the police said.
The statement added that the incident was not being treated as “terror-related.”
Inspector Scott Barden-Marshall added: “I know this incident will cause concern in the community. Officers responded quickly and made an arrest within 10 minutes. An investigation is now under way to establish the circumstances.”
The Community Security Trust urged “the community to remain vigilant and alert.”