On Questions, Answers, and Solutions

Becca DeShetler is a third year Civil Engineering student who hopes to bridge engineering with a desire to continue her family’s legacy of social work. Outside of coordinating weekly ghU presentations and activities, Becca guides outdoor trips for other students and tries out new recipes in her kitchen.

I spent my last Thursday evening addressing the Gaza Strip humanitarian crisis.

Well—not for real, of course. This was the fourth ghU of spring quarter for GlobeMed at UCLA, and just one over a dozen this year. Focusing on the Arab-Israeli conflict, we aimed to peer through the entangled and generations-long political conflict, and see the situation from a humanitarian angle.

For every ghU, the first rule is: “If the question has a simple answer, its likely the wrong question.” Instead, elicit controversy, get people talking, question beliefs. Ranging from critiquing our own ongoing WASH project to discussing the responsibility that comes with privilege, GlobeMed inspires me with its commitment to asking hard questions. But this creates a challenge: I do want to ask questions without an answer, but I also want to learn about come up with feasible solutions. That is why we are here, isn’t it?

In my time at UCLA, what GlobeMed has taught me is that this contradiction is necessary: It is essential to get become comfortable with unanswerable problems in order to patiently work to get asymptotically closer and closer to our goal of a sustainable partnership. After learning about the energy shortage in the Gaza Strip, we planned a possible Israeli intervention to bring more fuel to the region, knowing that Hamas, the local authority and an anti-Israel militant group, would reject any help.

As a group of students unified by interests in global health, it is so easy to hope our views are shared. However, the Arab-Israeli conflict exemplifies the long, complex, unfinished path to consensus, even in the face of humanitarian issues, and confronting the topic reminds one of the requirements of global health work: There is a long and partisan history to learn, all assumptions should be challenged, and every obvious answer carries a barrier.


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