(Above): Arie Partouche (left) and Brett Gelfand attend a Braves win over the Washington Nationals on Sep. 30. 

Sgt. Arie Partouche of the Golani Brigade completed his three-year commitment to the Israel Defense Forces in May. Unsure of what to do once out of the Army, the 21-year-old signed on to be a security guard for Taglit-Birthright Israel.

As his first assignment, Partouche was matched with a tour group from Atlanta. Partouche was so affected by the friendships he made on that trip that the Israeli decided to come to the United States to visit the group just a few months after the tour.

The Atlanta Birthright group Arie Partouche guarded.

The Atlanta Birthright group that Partouche (bottom left) guarded.

“We spent so much good time together, I promised I would go to see them here,” Partouche said during a recent visit to the Atlanta Jewish Times’ offices. “I would have never thought to visit Atlanta, but I really love this place. I need to come back again sometime.”

Partouche stayed with one of his closest friends from the trip, Brett Gelfand. The Atlanta native was happy to show Partouche everything Atlanta has to offer. The friends attended a Braves game, took in Buckhead nightlife, went to a shooting range in Sandy Springs and got all 24 participants from the Birthright trip together for dinner to reminisce about their 10-day trip.

“The first time we walked up to the bus to meet with our tour leader, we all thought Arie was like 30 years old,” Gelfand said. “No one knew how young he was, and we didn’t know he would fit in to our group the way he did. He was our guard, but it was pretty much like he was hanging out with us the entire time.”

Partouche, whose family made aliyah from Paris when he was young, said he plans to spend the next six months in Australia working before attending college in Israel.