President Rivlin opened his speech in Hebron by saying that where he now stood was where the Jewish people's right for the land of Israel was established.
"There's no way to go back down the path through which our people's consciousness was created without going to Hebron," he said. "The story of our roots is planted deep in the rocky grounds of Mount Hebron. For me this is not cynical or political statement - it is a basic fact that is clear to me, and is also true in the wider national and public context, that the Jewish community in Hebron tells the story of the creation of a nation, during its hay day, and also in difficult times."
Speaking of the dispute over the Jewish settlement in Hebron, the president said that "Even those who differ in their views regarding the renewed Jewish settlement in Hebron cannot, and should not, deny the deep cultural and historic connection of the people of Israel to the city.
"Hebron, which I visited frequently even before I entered my position as President, is a split city, a difficult city, a city divided and pieced together. The political reality has created difficult situations in Hebron, at times almost surreal, and yet it seems that life is stronger than anything else."
He called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. "It is difficult to imagine the possibility of dialogue in Hebron. The memory of slaughter and blood; screams of the wounded and orphans, are part of a constant reminder that arise in the collective memory of the city. However, we can and should try," he said.
Ahead of Rivlin's arrival at Beit Hadassah in Hebron, a few dozen Palestinians, joined by Meretz - including party candidate Attorney Gaby Lasky - and foreign activists, demonstrated at a checkpoint dividing the city's Israeli and Palestinian-ruled sectors.
One held a placard in English reading "Rivlin is not welcome in Hebron".
Palestinians said troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them, lightly injuring one person.
A brawl broke out at the scene between the Meretz activists and a group of extreme right-wing activists and settlers. One of the Meretz activists was held for questioning.
"The government is putting another stake in Hebron and is deepening the occupation," Lasky said. "It's regretful to see how security forces are sent time and again to protect a violent and aggressive minority that sets facts on the ground, with all of this coming on the expense of the Israeli tax payer."
Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer criticized Rivlin ahead of his visit to the West Bank and demanded the president to cancel his trip. "The nature of the Jewish settlement in the city and its way of action smear and disgrace the entire Israeli society," Oppenheimer accused.
The Jewish settlement in Hebron said in response: "The left-wing warmongers are bringing the complete opposite of the peace they are talking about."
AFP contributed to this report.