I had a great time when I was there and I felt what I could only describe as a tremendous spiritual light while there.
But what makes it so hard? I am really not sure. I think there was a kind of period of awakening when Bava Sali was alive. After that the עת רצון "time of grace" disappeared.
The best advice now is to learn the Oral and Written Law, and wait for God's grace to return.
We actually see in the Torah the major concern of God is to keep the Torah. Issues about Jewish identity or nationality do not come up there.
My major opinion about Israel is not based on Rav Kook. I never got into his books, though I briefly saw a few paragraphs on an I-phone my learning partner showed me.
My opinion is based on Reb Moshe Feinstein and Reb Aaron Kotler. Both said the same thing. דינא דמדינה דינא "the law of the country is the law." [Tractate Bava Batra chapter 3 חזקת הבתים]
That is neither saw it as some grand metaphysical goal to have a state. But neither did they consider it bad as Reb Joel did. That is it has the status of any legitimate country.They did not think nationalism is a substitute for keeping the Oral and Written Law.
But they did not see it as a bad thing. That is: the religious are crazy. The make a mitzvah out of being dirty anti-Semites. No better than Nazis. Rather it is a mitzvah to stay away from them.