The parents of three kidnapped Israeli teens visited the site of their abduction for the first time Sunday, and expressed gratitude to IDF soldiers and the country for their solidarity with the families.

They were accompanied by soldiers from the Kfir Brigade of the Lavie Battalion to the junction outside the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Etzion bloc, where division commander Brig.-Gen. Tamir Ya’adi and Col. Amit Yamin explained to them the circumstances and process of the kidnapping. From there, the parents went on to tour the area with security forces.

Rachelle Fraenkel, the mother of 16-year-old Naftali, thanked the soldiers for their efforts in trying to locate the three teens.

“We feel that our children have become everybody’s children, and we want to thank you for everything you are doing to bring them back home,” she said. “We know that there are soldiers who have haven’t seen their own homes in quite some time.”

Earlier in the day, the parents met with soldiers at a nearby base at Karmei Tzur, where they thanked them and handed out care packages with food.

Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, were kidnapped on June 12 from a hitchhiking stop near the settlement of Alon Shvut in the Etzion bloc. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel has unequivocal proof that Gaza terrorist organization Hamas is behind the abduction, and over the past 17 days, the IDF has embarked on a massive security operation in an effort to locate the teens and weaken Hamas.

Military officials have said the operation has yet to turn up any concrete leads, but late last week Israel named two Hamas operatives as suspects, and in a meeting with the parents on Friday Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon assured them that the IDF believes the teens are still alive.

Rachelle Fraenkel has been outspoken in her attempts to garner international support for efforts to return the teens, addressing the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva last week and giving interviews to international media outlets.

Interviewed by The Times of Israel on Thursday, Rachelle Fraenkel said she was optimistic on the basis of what she was being told by Israeli officials. “Basically I feel that if I’ll have to fall apart, I can always do it later. If this turns out horribly, I won’t be giving any interviews then, so there will be enough time then. Right now I’m very optimistic. We have every reason to believe that they’re alive and what we need is patience.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.