Jenan Matari, On Her Journey As An Entrepreneur & Palestinian American

“Good mental health, good and loyal love, and determination. With those three ingredients you are unstoppable.”
– Jenan Matari

Jenan Matari was raised to believe that she had the power to change the world, and she’s doing just that through her own public relations agency, ZAYTOUN Publicity.

Chasing her goals to create a more diversified media and public relations industry, ZAYTOUN Publicity focuses on telling the stories of and representing indigenous and minority brands and founders, and those brands whose core mission is to create an impact on society! “What led me to startup ZAYTOUN was coming to the realization that no company really aligned 100% with my mission. If I wanted to focus on my goals, which is diversifying the media and public relations industry to make a positive impact on marginalized communities, I needed to become my own boss”. Through her business, Jenan makes it her mission to tell stories that go unheard in mainstream media.

Jenan’s experience as a Palestinian American: Jenan has Palestinian roots and was born and raised in New Jersey. With many cultural barriers at play, she has faced the challenges of trying to fit in with Americans while also being herself and true to her roots. She went on to say: “I was either too Arab and too Muslim for my American friends, or too American for the very few Arab and Muslim friends I had and I was always made to feel like I had to choose one identity to fit in somewhere”

Growing up in America, Jenan often felt as though she couldn’t experience her childhood as a normal American kid. This brought some uncertainty, causing her to rebel and drift away from her culture for a period of time. She continued on to say, “Cultural barriers make it difficult to blend in, but the older I get the more I understand that the fault isn’t on the foreign culture, but more on the one we’re raised in that isn’t teaching us to respect or understand the differences other cultures bring to the table and see them as unique and beautiful, but rather to see them as weird or strange.”

Growing up and learning more about herself and her culture, she’s come to understand and appreciate these cultural differences and beliefs, and realized that she did not need to “compartmentalize” parts of who she is to try and fit in or make others feel more comfortable. “The moment I decided to embrace who I am and where my family comes from was the day I finally felt like my whole self, and that’s when I began the real process of true self-love.”

The more Jenan understands her culture, the more it allows her to educate others about the true beauty of Palestine. “Being Palestinian is a beautifully heart-breaking experience. Palestinians have such a rich and beautiful culture and history that is tens of thousands of years old. Everything from our style to our beauty routines to our cuisine, etc. have essentially remained the same since our beginning and it's amazing to be carrying the honour of making sure that history lives on and is honoured every day.”

Though she’s only visited Palestine once, she described the trip as one of the best in her life and wishes to visit again with her husband and son. One of her dreams today is to see a free Palestine and be part of the generation that gets to see this dream become a reality!

Our Favorite Questions

Where’s home to you?

“For me, home isn't anyone physical place. I know that's cliché, but the older I get the more I understand that to be true. I could say that my home is in New Jersey but I only feel that way because it's where my family is. If they were to pick up and move to another place anywhere in the world, New Jersey wouldn't be my home anymore - it would be wherever they are. I do find myself feeling a deeper connection to Palestine the more I educate others on it and the more I learn about and internalize my family history. That's an interesting feeling - nostalgia for a place I've never lived before.”

What are your dreams today?

“My dreams today go back to finding ways to positively impact the world. To do good. To make a difference even in the slightest way. Like my Palestinian ancestors and parents, I dream of seeing a free Palestine in my lifetime, and I hope to be a part of the generation that makes that dream a reality.”

What keeps you going?

“Learning. I never stop learning. I do my best to stay curious about everything and to just learn and then learn some more.”

“Being Palestinian is a beautifully heart-breaking experience. Palestinians have such a rich and beautiful culture and history that is tens of thousands of years old”

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