Can the secular State of Israel be the manifestation of the Redemption as envisioned by the Prophets?
Once, a young Torah student wrote to Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav, asking this very same question. He answered that there were many periods of spiritual decline during the First Temple, such as King Yerovam, the son of Navat, who set up idols in Dan and Bet-El; King Ahaz, who closed all of the study halls; King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who killed all of the Prophets and banned the worship of G-d. In addition, Herod, the rebuilder of the Second Temple, murdered all of the rabbis, save one, whom he merely blinded. Yet both the periods of the First and Second Temple are considered by everyone as redemptions from the exiles which preceded them. In contrast, during the seventy years between the First and Second Temples, even though Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zacharia, and Malachi abounded; great Torah scholars like Baruch ben Neria and Ezra upheld the light of the Torah; and great leaders like Mordechai and Daniel inspired the nation – this was a time of exile.