Italian Police Hunt for Stabber of Orthodox Jew in Milan

Authorities increase patrols in Jewish areas after Israeli man stabbed in possible anti-Semitic attack in northern Italian city.

An illustrative photo of the landmark Milan cathedral.
Wikicommons

MILAN, ITALY - Italian authorities have stepped up security measures at major Jewish sites across the country after an Orthodox Jewish man was stabbed in Milan in a possible anti-Semitic attack.

Nathan Graff, a 40-year-old Israeli citizen who was visiting the city, was attacked in front of a kosher restaurant on Thursday evening. The attacker came at Graff from behind and stabbed him with a knife at least seven times before fleeing, according to reports in the Italian media. Graff was taken to a local hospital and underwent surgery for injuries described as severe but not life-threatening.

Police in Milan are reviewing security camera footage in the area and hope to be able to identify the attacker soon, a source close to the investigation told Haaretz. 

Contradictory reports have appeared in the Italian media on the identity of the attacker – described variably as “an Arab woman” or a “blue-eyed man wearing a mask.” However, none of those descriptions have been confirmed by authorities, the source said.

The fact that the attack took place in front of a kosher restaurant and that the ultra-Orthodox Graff was easily identifiable as Jewish, has pointed to an anti-Semitic motive. Jewish community leaders fear it may have been a copycat attack similar to the stabbings perpetrated by Palestinians in the recent wave of violence in Israel.

The incident took place in the Bande Nere neighborhood, a working-class area on the outskirts of Milan that has become the center of the city's Jewish life in recent years, and where religious Jews live side-by-side with a large immigrant community.

Since the attack, police have been patrolling streets and stationing vans in front of kosher restaurants and other possible targets in the neighborhood as well as in the former Jewish Ghetto of Rome. Milan and Rome host most of the country’s small Jewish community of around 30,000.

The president of the Union of Italian Jewish communities, Renzo Gattegna, urged Italian Jews to “exercise extreme caution.” He also thanked the police for the prompt response and said Jewish life would go on as usual in the country. 

“Some people would like to make us feel threatened and force us to change our habits, our lifestyles, and our identity that has survived proudly for millennia,” Gattegna said in a statement. “It's a lost battle, we will go on and we will not be intimidated.”