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One of the questions a person is asked when he reaches his Heavenly rest is, "Did you yearn for Salvation?" If a Jew does not long for the Redemption, for Salvation from the exile, then something is wrong. If he is happy in the Diaspora, then his Judaism is out of focus, and he is out of touch with his soul's deepest yearnings. As The Kuzari poignantly declares, his prayers for Jerusalem and Zion are like the chatterings of a nightingale, melodious but empty of meaning.
The thought that Eretz Yisrael is an accessory to Judaism, and not a central pillar in itself, is a tragic distortion which was caused by the nearly 2000 year exile of the Jewish People from the Land of Israel. After years of wandering - scattered among the gentiles, separated from our homeland- our orientation to the Land of Israel became distorted and confused.