A heroic Golders Green teenager who fended off a knifeman using Krav Maga techniques he learned at school has said “I'm very strong and I believe in God”.
Yosef Chaim Reitman, 18, confronted a man allegedly wielding a knife in Kay’s Kosher supermarket on Hamilton Road in Golders Green after the man demanded to know where shop staff stood on “Israel and Palestine”.
Reitman told the JC: “He had a knife so most people would freeze or run away. I’m not like that.”
The man was subdued by officers and Shomrim volunteers and was arrested by the police.
Yosef Chaim’s father, shopkeeper Evyatar Reitman, 48, was in the shop with his son when the man came in.
Reitman said: “I was serving customers on the till, and I could see someone was waiting to be served. I looked at his face and I saw that this person had not come to buy something, I could see the hate in his eyes. He came in looking for a fight.
“He came to ask about Israel Palestine and seemed to want us to say we were pro-Israel so he had a reason to attack.
“He demanded: ‘What’s your side? Where do you stand on Israel and Palestine?
“I replied, ‘I don’t discuss politics’. That made him angry.
“I wear a kippah, he knows I am a Jew. I said, ‘I support what I support and you support what you support.’
“That made him furious so I tried to get him on a different subject to make him relax. I say, ‘Which football team do you support.’ ‘What the f***’, he starts to say. And that’s when I asked him to step outside.”
His eldest son, Yosef Chaim, who had worked at the shop for 18 months, helped coax the attacker outside.
As they left the shop, customers feared for what the attacker had in his pockets. Evyatar said: “I was worried for my son so I went out.”
The attacker pushed Evyatar away and said he wanted to speak with Yosef Chaim.
Yosef Chaim said, “He asked me about the states [of Israel and Palestine]. He was getting mad and said that we were not real Jews because we didn’t want to argue with him. My father told him to go away and he said you’re not real Jews because we didn’t argue with him about Israel.
“People have tried to come into the shop to argue about Palestine. Normally I tell them that we’re not involved and they leave. But this was different. He came here because he wanted to argue with someone. He came here angry.
“We asked him to leave the property. He said he lives very close. He said let’s go around the corner and that’s when he went towards me. He pushed me, shoving me and grabbing my neck.”
Yosef Chaim, 18, (left) fought the knifeman using Krav Maga with the help of his father Evyatar Reitman, 48 (right)
Yosef Chaim used his Krav Maga skills to try and push the alleged attacker to the ground. The 18-year-old had lessons in Israeli martial arts when he was a Year 5 pupil at Lubavitch Boys’ Primary School, and the techniques came back to him.
“I used kneeway bends from behind to try to get him to the ground. I’m pleased the skills came back to me.” Yosef Chaim went on. “As Jews, we get a lot of hate. My teacher taught us we always have to be prepared.”
Evyatar described how “My son caught him in his left hand, but I could see in his right hand a big blue knife. My son was holding him, he wasn’t running away, but he didn’t know that in the other hand he had a big knife. I thought he was going to stab my son in the chest.”
He added: “I told my son he had a knife. I didn’t know what to do and I shouted, ‘Call the police, call the police’.”
Another employee called the police and Shomrim from inside the shop.
Yosef Chaim said: “He had a knife so most people would freeze or run away. I’m not like that. I’m very strong and I believe in God. I’d like to make sure that nothing like this happens again. I wanted to try and trip him over.”
The 18-year-old described how the attacker “went towards my father with the knife. Then he went towards me. Hashem (God) gave me the idea to take out one of the trolleys and then I pushed it against his stomach to try and repel him. He kept coming at me. As he started coming towards me, I quickly threw the trolley towards him.”
Kay’s employees, Bruno Teixeira and Breno Camargo, grabbed a broom and a child’s scooter to assist Yosef Chaim and Evyatar disarm and push back the attacker.
According to witnesses, the knifeman “jabbed” at the staff and customers, but did not cause any injuries.
Evyatar told the suspect: “I say please go, the police are here, please go. Slowly he started to walk but he told us he would come back, he said that twice. He wasn’t happy. Then the police came after a few minutes.”
According to witnesses, the man crossed Hamilton Road and entered a nearby house where he changed clothes. By the time he left the building, at least five police vehicles had arrived at the scene, as well as Shomrim volunteers.
When the suspect appeared in a different set of clothes, he was tackled to the ground by Shomrim volunteers and officers from the Metropolitan police, who detained him.
In a tweet, the Community Security Trust (CST) thanked the police for “their swift response” and urged the community to “remain vigilant and alert”.
In a statement, the Metropolitan police said: “We were called at 13:27hrs on Monday, 29 January to reports of a man with a knife in Hamilton Road, NW11.
“Officers responded and searched the area.
“Shortly before 13:40hrs a 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and racially aggravated affray. He was taken into custody.
“There were no reports of any injuries. A knife was recovered at the scene.”