She Was a Star of New Palestinian Music. Then She Performed Beside the Mosque.

“People on the conservative side saw this as an example of the weakness and absence of the Palestinian Authority and the impotence of the Palestinian state,” said Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian intellectual and former head of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Although Palestinian society accepted diversity again, it has become more conservative in recent years as the struggle for statehood faltered and some Palestinians turned to tradition and religion to preserve their identity, said Prof. Nusseibeh.

Ms. Abdulhadi was born on the eve of a more hopeful time in October 1990. Her family had been in exile in Jordan since 1969 after the Israeli authorities expelled her grandmother, Issam Abdulhadi, a leading activist for women’s rights.

But as peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians gained momentum in the early 1990s, Israel allowed certain exiled leaders to return with their families with a gesture of goodwill. Among them were Issam and her family, including young Sama and her older brother and sister. Her father Saad is a publisher and event manager, and her mother Samira Hulaileh runs a forum for business women. She met for this interview at her home on the hill when Ms. Hulaileh was serving homemade lamb dumplings.

As a child, Ms. Abdulhadi was always a trailblazer. With her grandmother, she successfully campaigned for her headmaster to turn her into a girls’ soccer team (she later played for the national team). As a teenager, she organized hip-hop battles and breakdancing events, and acquaintances from that time remember her as a strong presence.

“It was the same feeling you still have today,” said Derrar Ghanem, a contemporary who later also helped build Ramallah’s electronic music scene. “She comes in and you think, ‘Who is that?'”

Ms. Abdulhadi began experimenting as a DJ in the middle of the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising that killed around 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians in the early 2000s. She used her father’s sound equipment to play music at friends’ events.

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